Municipalities struggle with hazardous household waste – Waste & Recycling News

Call2Recycle CEO & President, Carl Smith, will be a guest blogger for the month of May on Waste & Recycling News. This is the sixth installment, bookmark this site and check back for new posts each week.

Recent Posts:
When to Sort the Recyclables – May 11, 2012
Tips for Recyclable Collection and Take-Back Programs at Retailers – May 9, 2012
Product Stewardship Must Be a Shared Responsibility – May 7, 2012
What is product stewardship? – May 3, 2012
Responsible Recycling – May 1, 2012


Municipalities struggle with hazardous household waste

The U.S. EPA says there are more than 3,000 household hazardous waste (HHW) collection programs in the United States. Some communities provide permanent collection facilities. Others collect HHW on designated days at a central location to ensure safe management and disposal. In some communities consumers must rely on other means for recycling or proper disposal such as local businesses. For example, some local garages may accept used motor oil for recycling, and many retailers have recycling centers to collect batteries, compact florescent lights, plastic bags, etc. In order to meet the increasing demands of consumers while budgets have been slashed, municipal governments’ waste management efforts have had to become highly flexible, innovative and cost-effective.

King County, Wash., has a Wastemobile that travels to communities and is parked at various sites for two to three days. This provides residents with a place to take their hazardous waste that is more convenient than the permanent drop-off facility. Created in 1989, the Wastemobile was the first program of its kind in the nation. In 23 years of operation, the program has collected more than 14,000 tons of household hazardous waste from nearly 400,000 customers. For 2011, in 24 collection events, the Wastemobile served more than 13,000 King County residents and collected 506 tons.

In California, San Louis Obispo picks up small hazardous waste material, including batteries, from local retailers on an established collection route to help them comply with California regulations. Some municipalities are experimenting with collecting both alkaline and rechargeable batteries together. The Del Norte County, Calif., pilot project allowed co-collection of rechargeable and alkaline batteries. The first year of pilot project saw collections increase 3,000% over the baseline. This trend to collect all batteries rather than only rechargeable batteries seems to be gaining ground and efforts will likely increase.

Austin, Texas, also collects batteries from a city-wide drop-off program in addition to accepting batteries at their HHW facility. Sorted rechargeable batteries are bulk shipped to recycling facilities for free through Call2Recycle. A program for municipalities helps offset a portion of the sorting and handling costs associated with preparing batteries in accordance with DOT requirements.

Austin’s quantity of rechargeable batteries recycled continues to rise, with Austin Resource Recovery shipping 1,400 to 2,000 pounds every month. The major benefit for Austin is receiving detailed reporting on collection totals with breakdowns by battery type. Another is Call2Recycle‘s well-established and nationally recognized reputation. Partnering with an R2-certified organization which is also recognized as an e-Steward by the Basel Action Network assures that the materials are disposed of properly.

Across the country, municipalities are struggling to take increasing numbers of items and process greater quantities in their recycling programs despite limited resources. Undaunted, communities are continuing to recycle and finding inventive methods of protecting the environment.

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