Tom Hogan is thankful every time someone makes an appointment to drop off items at the Lawrence Douglas County Household Hazardous Waste Facility, which is west of 23rd Street and Haskell Avenue.
Hogan and his co-workers collect items people have their house from latex and oil-based paint (lots of it), old bottles of motor oil, aerosol cans and household cleaners to herbicides and pesticides.
“Basically, we try to keep it out of the landfill, which will hopefully keep it out of the water table,” said the waste reduction and recycling specialist for Lawrence’s solid waste division. “Also, we don’t want it going into the sanitation trucks because it poses a hazard when they crush the waste. Both large and small containers can be crushed, and lots of stuff is corrosive or flammable. It can leak out of the truck.”
The center, which makes appointments to accept household waste, collected 172,000 pounds of household hazardous waste from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, the most recent statistics available.
Here’s look at main items collected:
It’s by far the most collected item. Bulk latex paint represented 57 percent, or 98,000 pounds, and oil-based paint was 12 percent, or 20,500 pounds, of the household items collected during the 2010 fiscal year. Acrylics, vinyls and other substances in latex paint can be dangerous if poured down the drain or disposed in the trash, Hogan said.
Oil — about 9,000 pounds were collected in fiscal year 2010 — also poses a danger because it can pollute rivers, lakes, streams, soil and ground water.
The center collects regular and automotive batteries to control the acids used in them. More than 13,000 pounds were collected in 2010.
Paint thinner and gasoline
Hogan said it’s best to take these items to the HHW center because they are highly flammable, and yes, people still turn in old gasoline, even though it’s nearly $4 per gallon at the pump.
The chemicals used in these products can be toxic, so it’s best to get them in the proper hands, Hogan said.
The chemicals in cleaning items can also cause contamination problems.
The product in aerosol cans, including paint, can be hazardous if not disposed correctly. Also the cans are pressurized.
Mercury items, including fluorescent light bulbs
Hogan said the center wants people to bring in more fluorescent light bulbs and thermostats that have mercury thermometers. If mercury spills in your house, it is very difficult to clean up.