The city's Waste Reduction and Recycling Division wants to make sure pesticides and herbicides are used properly and completely.
In 1996 the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Program in Lawrence collected almost 1.5 tons of household pesticides, herbicides and poisons from Douglas County residents. The products came in aerosol, liquid and solid forms, and many bottles were only half-empty.
Once the materials were identified, sorted and lab packed, they were sent for disposal with the city's hazardous waste contractor. Because of their waste profile and EPA regulations, these particular items are sent to a hazardous waste incinerator for ultimate disposal.
What's the big picture? In 1996, household pesticides, herbicides and poisons comprised only 17 percent of the HHW Collection Program disposed waste stream -- yet they took up 39 percent of the total disposal costs!
While these items are expensive to dispose of properly, they often carry significant purchase prices, too. What to do? The city's Waste Reduction and Recycling Division suggest the following:
1. If you choose to purchase these types of products, read the label and use the products safely. Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill. They can injure or potentially kill people by inhalation, ingestion and absorption through the skin. Exposure can affect the respiratory and nervous system and cause skin and organ damage. Reading the label will instruct you about proper protective clothing and correct application methods.
Store safely, away from children and pets. Store pesticides in their original containers and protect the label for future identification. If the item is flammable, keep it away from heat, flames and spark sources.
Buy only what you need and use it all. Now is not the time to consider savings through bulk-buying! In most cases, a little goes a long way, as evidenced by the hundreds of half-full containers brought to the HHW collection facility.
2. Use the city's Product Reuse Program. Throughout the collection season, the city's Waste Reduction and Recycling staff hosts a product reuse shopping day for nonprofit groups and their members. Leftover household products entering the collection events are lightly used, in excellent condition and are in labeled, original containers. Why buy new when we can reuse? Call 832-2030 for the next "shopping day" or to set up a "shopping appointment" with us.
3. Dispose of the products properly. Use your local HHW facility. Don't throw pesticides in the trash or pour them on the ground or down a drain. Don't burn or bury them. These methods of disposal can pollute local ground water, lakes and rivers.
What options are there to using pesticides? Ultimately, the best product is prevention: Maintain your home so insects find it undesirable and inaccessible, and build healthy soils in your garden and yard.
There are safer alternatives to synthetic pesticides available for consumers. Consider using these "least toxic" products and ask for them at garden stores, retail shops, grocery stores and pest control suppliers.
If you use a pest control company, talk to it about your interest in less-toxic methods, ideas for prevention and monitoring methods for problem insects. Most applicators are willing to work with their clients and consider it part of their customer service.
Many nontoxic alternatives to pest control use products such as boric acid and white vinegar. If you are interested in receiving some of these nontoxic tips, please call the Waste Reduction and Recycling Division, 832-3030.
If you want to rid your home of old and unwanted hazardous products, bring them to any of the remaining HHW collection events. They're scheduled from 8 a.m. to noon July 19, Aug. 16, Sept. 20 and Oct. 18 at the Douglas County Public Works yard, 711 W. 23rd.
-- Recycling Reflections is made possible by the Lawrence Waste Reduction and Recycling Division.