Ask Eartha: Spring cleaning in Summit County
I have been doing some spring cleaning around the house but now I have all this stuff and I don’t know what to do with it. How do I dispose of it responsibly?
— Michelle, Breckenridge
Michelle, we are so glad you asked because the annual recycling event is Saturday, May 18. The event is held in conjunction with town cleanup events around the county. You can drive through and drop off your household hazardous waste, electronics, unused medications and textiles at the Summit Stage Bus Barn in Frisco, across from the County Commons, between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Best of all, it’s totally free for Summit County residents. Now, let’s talk more about why it’s important to properly dispose of these hazardous materials.
WHAT IS HHW?
First and foremost, toxic materials should never be dumped down a drain, flushed down the toilet or thrown out in the trash. Once that material ends up in our waterways or is loose in the landfill, it can cause major problems, both for public safety and for the environment.
Household hazardous waste, or HHW, are products commonly found in homes containing hazardous ingredients. These can be found in products made for cleaning, painting, staining, beautifying, healing, or disinfecting and may be used in the house, yard, garage, and even on your body. They should be used, stored and disposed of responsibly.
Read the labels of the products in your home. Words such as poison, toxic, corrosive, volatile, flammable, inflammable, combustible, explosive, danger, caution, warning and harmful are signs that the contents are hazardous. Be careful where you choose to store these products, as pets and children can easily and accidentally be exposed. Do not mix products either. This could result in a dangerous chemical reaction that could be harmful to your health.
To ensure that you don’t have a lot of extra HHW materials lying around the house, plan your purchases carefully so that you don’t have leftovers. If you do have leftover material, make sure these products are kept sealed in corrosive-free containers and out of reach of children.
Other contaminants that may come as a surprise include pharmaceuticals, personal care products, cleaning agents and plastics. While these products, called emerging contaminants, don’t yet have critical mass in our waterways to be considered pollutants, health officials are seeing the increasing accumulation of these materials downstream and in aquatic life. Let’s all take a moment to consider where this kind of waste ends up and start shifting our buying habits before our waterways pay the price.
So now that you know which products in your home are classified as HHW and emerging contaminants, what do you do with them? Here in Summit County, we’re lucky to have a program that takes those materials for free. It is funded through the Summit County Safety First Fund, approved by voters in November 2014, so there’s no excuse for improper disposal. The Summit County Resource Allocation Park on Landfill Road just outside of Keystone accepts HHW materials and electronics Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Another option for disposal is the annual recycling event hosted by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, government and High Country Conservation Center. You can bring your HHW materials, electronics, textiles and unused medications on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. to the Summit Stage Bus Barn in Frisco, across from the County Commons.
Accepted household hazardous waste items include paints, stains, pesticides, fertilizers, cleansers, solvents, adhesives, mercury thermometers and switches. Materials must be in their original containers and/or clearly labeled. Electronics include TVs, computers, tablets, cellphones, copiers, printers, fax machines and other large electronic devices. All personal information and hard drives will be destroyed by Electronics Recyclers International before processing.
You can also bring your old textiles (clothes, linens and shoes) to this year’s county event thanks to USAgain. This company repurposes torn clothes and fabrics and redistributes them in developing countries. However, we always encourage clothes in good, wearable condition to be donated to local thrift stores like FIRC’s Summit Thrift and Treasure.
Items not accepted at this year’s event include automotive fluids (oil, antifreeze, etc.), light bulbs, batteries and appliances. Those items can be taken to the SCRAP during regular business hours. Items never accepted at the SCRAP or the event include explosives, ammunition, infectious waste, 5-pound-or-larger propane tanks and radioactive materials. If you are looking to properly dispose of any items not accepted at the SCRAP, please call HC3’s recycling hotline at 970-668-5703.
Remember, in Colorado it is illegal to improperly dispose of HHW, electronics and prescription medications. If caught illegally dumping, you can face strict legal penalties. This can easily be avoided by bringing your spring cleaning collection — HHW, electronics, textiles and prescription meds — to the annual recycling event for proper disposal. This will ensure that our environment and landfill are not polluted with these products. For more information about HHW and electronics disposal, visit HighCountryConservation.org/hard-recycle-items.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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