Ask Eartha: What is Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)?

 In Ask Eartha

Dear Eartha,

I have an old TV, a pile of clothes, some unused medication, and a bottle of fertilizer collecting dust around my garage, what do I do with these things? — Bailey, Dillon Valley

Summit County Prescription Take Back ProgramBailey, we are so glad you asked because the annual recycling event is this weekend, Saturday, May 19. The event is held in conjunction with Town Clean Up Day events around the county. You can drive through and drop off your household hazardous waste (HHW), electronics, unused medications and textiles at the Summit Stage Bus Barn in Frisco, across from the County Commons, between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Best of all, it’s totally free. Now, let’s talk more about why it’s important to properly dispose of these hazardous materials.

First and foremost, toxic materials should never be dumped down a drain, flushed down the toilet, or thrown out in the trash. Once that material ends up in our waterways or is loose in the landfill, it can cause major problems both for public safety and for the environment.

Many products that are commonly found in homes contain hazardous ingredients. These can be found in products made for cleaning, painting, staining, beautifying, healing or disinfecting and may be used in the house, yard, garage and even on your body. All products should be used, stored and disposed of responsibly.

Read the labels of the products in your home. Words such as: poison, toxic, corrosive, volatile, flammable, inflammable, combustible, explosive, danger, caution, warning and harmful are signs that the contents are hazardous. Be careful where you choose to store these products as pets and children can easily and accidentally be exposed. Do not mix products either. Who knows what kind of new and dangerous concoction will emerge from combining materials.

Recycle your old paint as HHWTo ensure that you don’t have a lot of extra HHW materials lying around the house, you want to plan carefully so that you don’t buy too much and then have leftovers. Proper planning in the beginning can save you the trouble and headache of having to store and dispose of these materials. If you do have leftover material, make sure these products are kept in sealed and corrosive-free containers and out of the reach of children.

There is also a new term called emerging contaminants which includes pharmaceuticals, personal care products, cleaning agents and plastics. While these products don’t yet have critical mass in our waterways to be considered pollutants, we are seeing increasing accumulation of these materials downstream. We must consider the end life of these products and determine alternative recycling and disposal practices that support a healthy environment and protect public safety.

So now that you know which products in your home are classified as HHW and emerging contaminants, what do you do with them? Here in Summit County, we’re lucky to have a program that takes those materials for free; so there’s no excuse for improper disposal. The Summit County Resource Allocation Park (SCRAP) on Landfill Road just outside of Keystone accepts HHW material and electronics Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Summit County Government, Sheriff’s Office, and High Country Conservation Center will be hosting a collection event for HHW materials, electronics, textiles and unused medications on May 19 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Summit Stage Bus Barn in Frisco, across from the County Commons. Accepted household hazardous waste items include paints, stains, pesticides, fertilizers, cleansers, solvents, adhesives and mercury thermometers and switches. Materials must be in their original containers and/or clearly labeled. Electronics include TVs, computers, tablets, copiers and fax machines, printers and other large devices. All personal information and hard drives will be destroyed by Electronics Recyclers International before processing.

HHWTextiles (old clothes and fabrics) are accepted at this year’s county event thanks to UsAgain. This company repurposes torn clothes and fabrics and redistributes them in the global south. However, we always encourage clothes in re-wearable condition to be donated first and foremost to town thrift stores like FIRC.

Items not accepted at this year’s event include waste oil and antifreeze, light bulbs, batteries and appliances. Those items can be taken to SCRAP during regular business hours. Items not accepted at the SCRAP or the event include explosives, ammunition, infectious waste, propane tanks and radioactive materials.

Bringing that dusty old stuff laying around in the garage — like electronics, HHW, clothes and old pills — not only gives you some extra room but helps protect the environment through proper disposal and recycling at the annual recycling event For more information about HHW and electronics disposal, visit https://highcountryconservation.org.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at info@highcountryconservation.org.

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