Acquiring items deemed household hazardous waste like cleaning and personal care products is as easy as spending a few dollars at the nearest store. Proper disposal of such items, however, is no easy task.
In an attempt to give residents of Champaign, Hardin and Madison counties an easier avenue to safely dispose of household hazardous waste, the North Central Ohio Solid Waste District (NCOSWD) decided to come directly to its customers by embarking on a one-of-a-kind mobile truck collection service.
“My job and responsibility is to try to help people get rid of their stuff,” NCOSWD Executive Director Dennis Baker said. “When it comes to disposing of hazardous waste in Ohio, there really isn’t a mechanism that works.
“I thought about it for a while and thought we would bring a mobile site to the people … so we bought a truck and equipped it with all the gear needed on the inside and outside for mobile collection. It will be kind of unique.”
The 16-foot box truck is being outfitted with what Baker calls a “cartoonish” wrap that’s designed to appeal to youngsters. It is equipped with a variety of items, including scales, lockers for safety gear, an eye wash station, a first aid kit, four fire extinguishers, metal and plastic drums and a printer.
“I’m kind of excited about the mobile unit,” Baker said. “This has never been done in the state before (by a government entity), so it’s groundbreaking. I feel good to be able to offer this service.”
Champaign County residents will get their first chance to use the household hazard waste mobile drop-off truck when it makes its inaugural visit to Urbana on April 26. From 9 to 11 a.m., the truck will be parked at the Champaign County Community Center, 1512 S. U.S. Route 68, Urbana.
There is a $1 per pound cost (cash or check) to drop off household hazardous waste items, and anyone wishing to use the service must make an appointment by calling 937-642-7283. Any person caught leaving items without an appointment will be prosecuted for illegal dumping, Baker said.
A much-needed service
Baker said when he joined the NCOSWD over 20 years ago, the district – comprised of Champaign, Shelby, Union, Allen, Hardin and Madison counties – held free one-day collection events once a year in all six counties.
The cost to host such events and dispose of the collected household hazardous waste ran the district $250,000 a year in the beginning, Baker said. Once the costs reached $350,000, something had to give, so the one-day events were cancelled several years ago in favor of semi-permanent collection sites in Allen, Shelby and Union counties.
The decision to move to semi-permanent drop-off sites in only three of the district’s six counties meant Champaign County residents had to drive a good distance to dispose of household hazardous waste.
With the new mobile truck scheduled to visit Urbana once a month from April through October (April 26, May 24, June 21, July 19, Aug. 30, Sept. 27 and Oct. 25), residents will no longer have to drive to Marysville or Sidney just to properly dispose of their household hazardous waste.
Despite moving away from the costly one-day events to the $1 a pound semi-permanent and mobile drop-off sites, the district still loses money by helping locals dispose of their household hazardous waste.
“We don’t make a nickel,” Baker said. “I lose money on this, but I firmly believe in what we are trying to accomplish here.”
Baker said all items dropped off should be clearly marked for identification purposes, and there are some exceptions to the $1 a pound fee.
“If (the item) is not open, we don’t charge for it,” he said. “Instead, we set it aside and give it to restores.”
Also, the district doesn’t charge to dispose of fireworks, ammunition or lead acid batteries. It does charge an additional 50 cents per fluorescent bulb.
The lengthy list of items accepted at the mobile drop-off sites include many items from the following categories: automotive products (gasoline, waste oil, etc.), batteries (no alkaline), home maintenance (paint, sealers, etc.), fluorescent lights (additional charge of 50 cents per bulb), garden products (fertilizer, pesticide, etc.), hobby products (photographic chemicals, pool chemicals, etc.), pest products (flea powder, shampoo), mercury (thermometers, thermostats), cleaning products (drain cleaners, aerosol cans, etc.) and personal care products (perfumes, nail polish, etc.).
Baker said often people are unaware that two items in particular – latex paint and alkaline batteries – are considered nonhazardous. While alkaline batteries can go right into the trash, a little doctoring needs to be done to the latex paint before tossing it into the trash.
“Latex paint is nonhazardous because it has no petroleum products in it,” Baker said. “While it’s not deemed hazardous, latex paint can’t just be disposed off as is in a solid waste landfill in its liquid form.”
Instead, he added, it needs to be thickened by adding a floor dry material like kitty litter.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.