What do you do with a banana peel? You throw it the trash. What do you do with a cardboard box you no longer need? You recycle it. What do you do with any chemicals you no longer need? You dispose of it properly. However, chemicals are not always disposed of properly and things end up either down the drain or sitting in a garage for decades. This has been a very dangerous problem, with toxic chemicals being disposed of in local water sources and then being cycled through a populace. To counteract this, many states and cities have enacted programs that work to gather chemicals from the community so that they can be disposed of or recycled properly.
In Tucson, Arizona the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) is a local program that works to recycle or dispose of chemicals that the community brings in. The first step in this process is for the community to bring in any hazardous waste present in their household. This can include cleaning agents that are no longer needed, used oil, photo chemicals, paints, any flammable liquids, and fertilizers or pesticides. Once brought into the collection site, these chemicals are sorted into different categories (flammable liquids, soaps/waxes, solid and liquid poisons, etc). According to a 2013 report, 488 tons of waste was collected through the program and 98 percent of this waste was recycled. Part of the reason for the high recycling percentage is that the program recycles latex paint. In 2013 latex paint made up 29% of the waste, with 22,635 gallons of paint being redistributed. This means that the paint that was brought in was remixed and then sold to the public in 5 gallon buckets. Along with paint the program also recycles scrap metal from cans, rechargeable batteries, and used oil. Collection of waste takes place at a main facility, a local landfill, and on the first and second Saturday of every month at designated areas. These areas had over 33,000 participants in 2013 and saw the start of a home pick-up program at a fee. As great as they numbers appear it is important to remember that the population of Tucson in 2013 was 526,000, which means that program only reached 6% of the population. However, the program has seen a rise in participation in recent months and has continued to remove large amounts of waste from landfills and water sources.
Tucson is not the only program with a hazardous waste program. Through the waste management program, it is possible to locate different programs in different states. Other states also have collection facilities for waste that needs to be disposed of correctly. No one wants these dangerous chemicals in their water or on their land. However, it is up to individuals to take the time and find the proper way of disposing of their waste. The good news is that there are programs specifically designed to remove all types of hazardous waste in the most environmentally way possible.