Improper disposal of household hazardous wastes pollutes our local water supplies and environment. Whether it is thrown out with regular trash going to a municipal waste landfill, dumped illegally down the drain, storm sewer, or in a ditch, these actions compromise the safety of drinking water thereby threatening the health and well-being of area residents.
The Ecology Action Center, acting as the local solid waste agency, receives inquires daily from concerned residents who wish to dispose of materials properly. Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection events are the primary means for safe disposal of many of these materials. While no spring HHW events are planned for our area, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has scheduled HHW collections in Lewistown on June 7 and DeKalb on June 21. More details are available at the IEPA website at http://www.epa.state.il.us/land/hazardous-waste/household-haz-waste/hhwc-schedule.html. These collection events are open to any Illinois resident to bring residentially-generated HHW for proper disposal—no business waste is accepted.
Historically state funding provided for annual HHW collection events in McLean County from 2003-2007. Unfortunately, due to state budget cuts, this funding has become much more irregular and infrequent with a gap in state HHW funding for McLean County for six years. To meet the community’s needs, in 2012 the Ecology Action Center raised over $160,000 in contributions and in-kind services to hold the first-ever locally funded HHW collection in the McLean County area. This effort resulted in the largest HHW event ever in this community as thousands of households sought to dispose of a backlog of hazardous waste. This unique and wildly successful funding strategy drew recognition ranging from an Honorable Mention among the 2013 Governor’s Sustainability Awards to the McLean County Chamber of Commerce Green Excellence Award. IEPA provided funding for a 2013 HHW collection in McLean County, but the frequency of receiving such funding in the future remains unknown.
Currently, the Ecology Action Center is working on a new strategy with area partners to help provide for more regular HHW collection events for area residents. However, in the short term the EAC urges residents to adopt three strategies for dealing with household hazardous waste.
- Take advantage of IEPA funded HHW collections in other communities when possible. See the spring schedule at http://www.epa.state.il.us/land/hazardous-waste/household-haz-waste/hhwc-schedule.html.
- Utilize local programs to dispose of some categories of HHW including household batteries, CFLs, electronics, automotive fluids, medicines, and mercury thermostats. See locations and details of these programs at http://www.ecologyactioncenter.org/waste-and-recycling/ways-to-locally-recycle-some-hhw/. Please note, many of these programs are limited to residential waste only due to funding limitations. Businesses should contact the Ecology Action Center for resources for hazardous waste disposal.
- Reduce generation of hazardous waste in the first place. Avoid the problem of disposal by buying safer alternatives to hazardous products, buy smaller quantities of hazardous products in order to avoid leftovers, or find others that can use leftover hazardous products through neighborhood associations, the Pantagraph’s Good Neighbor column, or through the McLean County Freecycle: http://groups.freecycle.org/McFreecycle.
More information on hazardous waste disposal and nonhazardous waste disposal are available at www.ecologyactioncenter.org or by calling 369-454-3169. Free resources include a notification email list for HHW updates, instructions on disposal of nonhazardous latex paint, suggestions on alternative (non-hazardous) products, and information on the EAC’s Yard Smart program, promoting sustainable landscaping and gardening with less synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.