Little attention has been paid in the past to household hazardous waste. Small quantities from millions of source households and businesses could be easily disposed of in the conventional waste stream. Over the past 30-40 years however, there has been a steady increase in awareness of the toxic nature of many familiar and household items and materials. This has coincided with an exponential increase in that time in the number of electronic items and household appliances with electronic components being used and requiring disposal. Many people are now aware that everyday items such as tyres, light globes, computers and treated timber have characteristics and toxic components that make safe recycling and disposal difficult.
There have been satisfactory disposal and recycling options for few of these materials and they mostly consisted of manual and simple mechanical separation of components. New research however, and the development of novel chemical, biological and other techniques, such as microwaving, is creating safer and more efficient ways to disassemble and extract the valuable materials and neutralise the dangerous elements of these materials.