Household Hazardous Waste Requires Proper Disposal
April 25, 2019
As consumers, we often do not think about the hazardous products we keep in our homes. Under the kitchen sink we keep drain cleaners and household cleaners of all sorts. In the bathroom we keep nail polish remover, old pharmaceuticals, and perhaps a thermometer containing mercury. The garage or tool shed may contain a host of hazardous items including wood stripper, pesticides and automobile fluids such as anti-freeze. What do we do with these products when we are finished with them? More often than not, they go into our weekly curbside trash pick-up.
Patrick Cullen is Director of the Land Resource Management Division (LRMD) for Wayne County. He says residents can legally put such items in with their weekly trash pick-up, but doing so could pose dangers to the environment. "We'd rather not see that in the landfill," Cullen says. "Those are the types of items that, long-term, can present problems to the groundwater and problems to surface water. "
To address the disposal of household hazardous waste (HHW), Wayne County will be providing four HHW Collection Events until the fall. The first event will be held on Saturday, May 11 at Henry Ford College in Dearborn. The collection event will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The collection event is free and is for Wayne County residents. Cullen explains that due to the tightening of municipal budgets, many cities do not offer HHW disposal. "We've seen a lot more reliance on our events as a result of that," he says.
Accepted items for disposal include, but are not limited to household cleaners, paint, lawn chemicals, motor oil, fire extinguishers, and computers. The event will also be accepting pharmaceutical waste, with the exception of controlled substances. John Demerjian is the Resource Recovery Coordinator for Wayne County's Department of Public Services. He says the county's HHW Collection Events are very popular. "We have residents that always bring-and are happy to bring-the sharps that they use for diabetes and other illness or treatment, to our events," he says. HHW Collection Events promote safety for the people responsible for picking up the curbside trash each week, a dangerous job because they don't always know what's inside the black plastic bag, Demerjian says. "Lots of injuries related to sharps and needle disposal."
Cullen suggests residents either bring their sharps and needles to the HHW Collection Event for disposal, or use an old detergent jug to store used needles before tossing them into the trash bag. The puncture-proof jug will keep trash handlers safe. He adds that the county has set up two medical waste collection sites, in Westland and Hamtramck. Flushing old medications is never a good idea, Demerjian says. He explains that medications eventually make their way into our groundwater and such chemicals are unable to be filtered out in the water treatment process. He adds that chemicals and hormones are now showing up in fish populations in our rivers and streams due to medications being flushed.
Wayne County has been collecting HHW since 2004. Cullen says the goal is to divert as much material away from the landfills as possible. "Many of the items we collect are fully recyclable," he says. "We have better regulations today, but we're still creating and producing a lot of different chemicals and compounds that we haven't fully seen its full effect on us, on our public health, and our environment."
For a full list of HHW Collection dates and locations, see the county's website at http://www.waynecounty.com. Also on the website is a list of acceptable items. Click on the Environmental Services tab, then the Land Resource Management tab. Further inquiries, including medical waste drop off sites, can be made by calling 734-326-3936.