E.V. facility takes household hazardous waste - East Valley Tribune: News

E.V. facility takes household hazardous waste

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Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2009 6:50 pm | Updated: 2:10 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Household hazardous waste doesn't sound like something that would lend itself to recycling. Yet Gilbert's facility devoted to accepting electronics, paint and other household byproducts that must be handled with care is finding ways to recycle more than half of what comes in, with a goal of getting that number up to 70 percent by next July.

VIDEO: Gilbert hazardous waste

Household hazardous waste doesn't sound like something that would lend itself to recycling.

Yet Gilbert's facility devoted to accepting electronics, paint and other household byproducts that must be handled with care is finding ways to recycle more than half of what comes in, with a goal of getting that number up to 70 percent by next July.

Bill Jackson, Gilbert household hazardous waste supervisor, said he's turning his attention to making sure each and every recyclable plastic container possible gets trucked out to the recycler.

"That's what we're really going to concentrate on. That's what's going to get us there," he said Thursday.

Many East Valley cities hold occasional hazardous household waste, or HHW, events to collect things that don't belong in a landfill, and so did Gilbert until it opened its permanent building in June 2007, on Queen Creek Road just west of Greenfield Road. The free dropoffs are restricted to Gilbert residents, since the service is paid for by a utility bill surcharge.

Environmental Protection Agency regulations prohibit the town from taking commercial waste, so Jackson and the other two staffers have to be on the lookout for people bringing in large quantities of oil, paint or other liquids that companies might be trying to dispose of on the cheap.

The facility took in 148,000 pounds of material from 3,744 residents during the fiscal year that ended June 30, an increase from the 139,000 pounds it received from 2,782 residents the first year it was open.

Besides the metal and plastic items the general public is accustomed to recycling, the HHW crew has found markets for many of its items, whether it's a recycling company dedicated to stripping appliances down to their valuable basics, a propane company that refurbishes old tanks or residents repainting their homes.

Almost 52 percent of what's brought into the building is being directly recycled, and another 4 percent is flammable liquid that's used to fuel the incinerators at the hazardous-waste facilities where chemicals must be destroyed, including weed killers, bug sprays and bleach.

AAA batteries can be dismantled and the plastic, metals and precious metals reused. So can car batteries. Tires without rims are also accepted and can be recycled, but the town facility doesn't take tires that are still attached to the wheel because the town doesn't have the manpower to take them apart.

Paint is the substance most commonly brought in, and it also has the quickest turnaround, as it's remixed on the spot, dumped into plastic cans and available for free in the popular "swap shop," where residents can pick them up along with other items such as unopened household cleaners, pool chemicals and other substances that can be more easily handled.

"I can't remember the last time I bought a bottle of soap for my dishwasher at home," Jackson said.

He added that it's a good idea to call ahead to see whether the more in-demand white or brown paint is available from the swap shop; "grey" paint, which sometimes has a purplish or greenish tint, is usually pretty easy to find and is also used by the town to cover up graffiti.

The digital television switchover has contributed to a surge in "e-waste," as many residents brought in old TV sets that can be melted down for the glass and lead in the screens, as can computer monitors. Computer circuitboards can either be stripped for precious metals or used to refurbish computers.

Jackson said he sometimes has to try to chase off town employees who circle around the place in hopes of scoring motherboards or other components for their home geek projects.

John Wurm, a member of Gilbert's Environmental Task Force, said he wasn't aware Gilbert had a permanent HHW facility before he joined the committee and got a tour, and was impressed that the town had the means to take such substances more than a couple times a year.

He now uses it himself to dispose of items, and one of his sons went there once in search of paint for a Scout project. "But I think they were out, because I don't remember him coming home with anything," Wurm said.

The HHW building accepts dropoffs Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Users must bring a current utility bill or driver's license with a Gilbert address to prove residency.

A full list of accepted and unacceptable items is online at http://www.ci.gilbert.az.us/pw/hhw.cfm

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