Cleaning up household toxins takes some special care
Look under the sink or in the garage in any home in Summit County and you’ll probably find numerous potentially toxic products. From oven cleaners to mercury thermometers to pesticides, materials we use every day can present serious human and environmental health risks to our community and households.These products, called Household Hazardous Waste (HHW), can be identified by looking at labels for four key words: poison, danger, caution, or warning. Many of these products contain chemicals that can be flammable, corrosive, reactive, caustic, and toxic.So what do you do with these HHW products when you are done using them? The answer isn’t as simple as tossing them in a trash can, dumping them down the drain, or storing them for eternity in a box in the garage.HHW can add a dangerous mix of toxic materials to our local landfill and groundwater when thrown in the trash, can add risk to a firefighter trying to respond to a fire when left in the garage, and can pose serious problems for our wastewater treatment plants when poured down the drain. Fortunately, there’s a safe, convenient and affordable solution available locally: The Summit County Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Program now accepts this material year-round, every Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon at the Summit County Landfill. You no longer have to wait for a single day event or make an appointment to get rid of your paint, pesticides, antifreeze, mercury thermometers and more! Because this material is very expensive to handle and dispose of, there are fees for certain materials (20 cents per pound for latex paint or 50 cents per large fluorescent bulb, for example). It can be frustrating to have to pay for disposal of a product you just paid for at the store, but right now there’s no alternative. In America, manufacturers of these products have no legal obligation to pay for their end-of-life disposal, so the burden of cost lies with the consumer and the local community. So, before you buy a product, read the label to make sure it’s a product you want to buy and consider the fact that you may have to pay to dispose of it if you don’t like it. And always buy the least hazardous product when you have a choice.Another consideration is to try “green” cleaning products that are made from safe materials like vinegar or biodegradable and nontoxic soaps and come with no warning labels or ingredients that you can’t read. To help you decipher what “green” means when it comes to cleaning products or explore making your own cleaners from basic ingredients, the High Country Conservation Center is hosting a Green Cleaning Workshop on Wednesday, May 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the Frisco Recreation Building. The workshop is free, but pre-registration is suggested. Just call (970) 668-5703 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.And please remember that absolutely no Household Hazardous Waste, including paint, is accepted at Town Clean Up Days and cannot be placed in with regular trash.Carly Wier is the executive director of High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit working locally to promote waste reduction and resource conservation.
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