Recently we visited a local collection event managed by county officials and volunteers to see for ourselves how one community tackles the problem of hazardous waste.
Much of the success of any community recycling program depends on communication, a collection schedule must be established and the community informed. Once established, a successful recycle program needs to be able to collect the greatest amount of recyclable materials form the largest segment of the community, at the least cost. To do this, our community has set up multiple channels for recycle collection:
- Curb-side collection biweekly pick up of non hazardous household and business waste.
- Recycling drop off centers which duplicate curb side collection, extending the service to remote areas of the community.
- Rotating collection events such as the one we attended to collect special categories of waste materials not received by curb-side pick up or drop off centers. This list usually includes dangerous household chemicals, electronics, paint or petroleum products, fluorescent bulbs and devices containing mercury. More about this follows.
- Vegetative materials drop off centers where a mulching operation can convert yard waste into reusable mulch.
- Scheduled special location collections, such as elder or retirement communities where it might be expected that residents have limited or no transportation capability.
- A network of secondary reuse locations such as second hand shops, donation centers and charitable organizations where used but still useful items can be recycled.
Once the collection channels are in place a functional recycling program needs a corresponding set of distribution channels. We'll look at that next week.
By mail, our office received a notice that a mobile hazardous waste collection would be scheduled in two weeks, near our office, in the parking lot of a local high school. All that remained was to call in the staff and start rounding up all those out dated or unusable computers, routers, keyboards and artifactual electronic detritus of an internet magazine. After loading our unwanted "haz" waste into the car, a short ride brought us to the collection center by 9 AM.A volunteer greeted us with a smile, a copy of waste management's newsletter and asked that we pull forward to the next station where more volunteers were waiting to unload or recycle materials. The entire process took about 6 minutes from start to finish and we never had to leave our vehicle.
Later, we spoke with the site supervisors, Deb Bush and Joe Fernandez, who informed us that, although waste management personnel were at the location, they worked alongside volunteer students from the high school. The school's environmental sciences instructor Corine Coviello had arranged community service credits for participating students and, we suspect, a positive experience in community waste recycling.
Two other groups were helping that day: an unidentified group of citizens sentenced to community service for various, minor legal infractions and, most surprising, a group from Environmental Quality of Florida. The private company with offices nationwide, routinely assists local waste management facilities at recycling events. In fact, Mr. Fernandez, who attends the county's award-winning mobile HAZ-TO-GO service, told us that because EQ Florida personnel are considered first responders, they are deferred to by local fire departments should there be an accidental spill on site.
The event went off with out incident however, in fact most people we talked to had a great experience. The morning seemed almost festive as community; professionals, volunteers, students and citizens alike cooperated in a determined way to promote a cleaner, safer environment and better use of resources for everyone - at Greener Mag, well, we finally freed up some much needed office space.
by Harlan Weikle