How to Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste Products

By Karlovits, Bob | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 26, 2012 | Go to article overview

How to Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste Products


Karlovits, Bob, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


They are the materials that sit in cans with lids that don't quite close or in plastic bottles with leaks that are barely noticeable. They find a home on those wooden shelves in the garage.

They are waste products such as paint, varnish, containers of gasoline and oils or cleaning fluids. They don't seem dangerous until a pet gets into them or a spill causes an irritation.

Taking care of them can be relatively simple, but how each municipality handles them in as different as "snowflakes," says Lynn Brown, a vice president at the Texas headquarters of Waste Management, the hauling and recycling firm.

She warns that there are such specific differences in municipal waste collections that the first step should be to check on those rules before putting an item on the curb. Local government officials, such as R. Douglas Weimer, chairman of the Hempfield supervisors, agree this is the wisest first step.

Between that inquiry and the efforts of groups such as the privately run Pennsylvania Resources Council in the South Side or Westmoreland Cleanways, waste materials do not need be a threat.

Many products, such as cleaners, varnishes and oil-based paints have a difficult time finding a home other that in organized collections, says Dave Mazza, director of the South Side group.

"You never, never want to put those items in the regular trash," he says.

The wastes can be threats in many ways, he says, including being the source of hazardous fumes when they combine with other items.

Pennsylvania Resources Council collections have picked up 3 million pounds of items in 54 collections in nine counties since 2003, he says.

Ellen Keefe, executive director of Westmoreland Cleanways, says one of the trickier issues is that putting some waste material out for trash pickup is not illegal, even if it is risky.

But groups such as hers and Pennsylvania Resources Council take such materials only at their planned connections. At them they have hired companies trained and certified in disposal.

At everyday trash pickups, the workers are on are the lookout for such materials.

"If they hear something sloshing around, they won't tale it," Keefe says with a laugh.

One waste product that often appears at curbside pickups is the remains of a gallon of paint. Mazza, Keefe and Weimer all say paint is easy to get rid of if it is latex, which can be solidified with the addition of kitty litter or paint hardeners sold in home improvement stores. …

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