A Special Effort for a Special Waste

April 1, 2000

12 Min Read
A Special Effort for a Special Waste

Laura Macpherson

Managing small quantities of household hazardous waste (HHW) can be tedious. Complying with state and federal regulations and worker training and education requirements, while at the same time considering health and safety issues, is a daunting endeavor. Nevertheless, for 15 years, New Jersey's Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority (MCMUA) has been providing an outlet for residents and conditionally exempt small quantity generators (CESQGs) to dispose of and recycle their HHW.

Since 1985, more than 16,000 businesses and residents have disposed of and/or recycled nearly 2 million pounds of HHW through Morris County's programs. What's more, these programs do not depend on the county tax base - revenue is generated by user fees and grants.

Water and Waste Once George Washington's headquarters during the American Revolution, Morris County has become one of the fastest growing counties in the New York metropolitan area with a population of approximately 425,000 (150,000 households). Just 30 miles west of New York City, it spans an area of 477.7 square miles and contains 39 municipalities.

In 1958, the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders created the MCMUA to solve the county's water supply problem. After the MCMUA successfully established a comprehensive system of wells, pumps, tanks and pipeline, in 1987, the Freeholders charged the Authority with handling the county's solid waste management.

Developing a well-balanced system, the MCMUA created solid waste management operations that now include:

* An out-of-state landfill agreement;

* Two solid waste transfer stations;

* A recycling center;

* A curbside recycling program;

* Two vegetative waste composting facilities;

* An HHW facility and disposal program;

* A universal waste recycling program; and

* A materials exchange program.

Morris County still is able to control waste flow because the Authority bid its solid waste service contracts competitively and did not discriminate against out-of-state facilities. This ensures that the MCMUA maintains a consistent flow of waste into its two county-owned trash transfer stations. In return, tipping fees help fund several special waste management programs for county residents and businesses.

Tip Fees Help Manage Hazwaste Although the Authority's HHW facility, disposal program and cleanup events are funded by tip fees, the HHW program actually took root in 1985 when the Freeholders received a $10,000 grant to finance a two-day collection of unused or outdated pesticides from homeowners and small businesses. The county's impetus was to keep hazardous materials from seeping through landfills and into groundwater.

Many people were not aware of the myriad of hazardous materials they had stored in their homes and garages, and the county needed an outlet to manage these materials safely and conveniently, according to Glenn Schweizer, MCMUA executive director and former Morris County solid waste coordinator, and Lauren Roman, a former principal solid waste planner with the county and current president of Industrial Recycling Services, Flanders, N.J.

Based on the increasing popularity of such HHW collection events, by 1995, the MCMUA built a permanent HHW facility at its transfer station. Nevertheless, the Authority continued its collection events.

More Dropoffs Needed Traditionally, periodic HHW cleanup events have been held in one central location in the county. However, the permanent facility in western Morris County created the need for an additional drop-off location in the county's eastern portion. A Pequannock Township site was chosen, and in May 1999 the town's first HHW disposal event was held with 600 residents attending.

The MCMUA holds four HHW disposal events per year - two in the spring and two in the fall. Held on a Saturday or Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m, the events are staffed by a licensed hazardous materials management company and two Morris County sheriff's officers with traffic control and explosives management training. In addition, a MCMUA representative assists with traffic control, unloads vehicles and answer questions. The representative also oversees the materials' packaging and manifest preparation.

Although the permanent HHW facility opened in April 1998, the participation has not noticeably decreased at individual cleanup events. In 1999, 2,278 residents disposed of approximately 320,000 pounds of HHW over the four events.

The Permanent Facility Bolstered by the success of its first hazwaste operation, the MCMUA opened a permanent HHW facility in 1998 at its transfer station on Gold Mine Road in Mount Olive Township. The facility, which cost $438,000 (including construction, equipment and engineering oversite), is one of only three of its kind in New Jersey.

The operation consists of two pre-fabricated waste storage units; a pole barn for sorting, segregation and bulking; an office trailer; and a 1,000-gallon waste oil storage tank.

Located in a walled-in area just northwest of the existing transfer station building, the facility is open by appointment to residential and CESQGs for three hours a day, two days a week, currently Friday and Saturday mornings.

An Authority supervisor oversees the facility's daily operation, which is performed by Onyx Environmental Services, a private hazardous waste management company located in Flanders. All material is transported for recycling and/or disposal by licensed hazardous waste haulers at least every 90 days.

The MCMUA accepts and recycles:

* Household and rechargeable batteries;

* Automotive and generator back-up batteries;

* Antifreeze;

* Motor oil;

* Fluorescent light bulbs and ballasts;

* Propane cylinders;

* Empty paint cans; and

* Empty aerosol cans.

The facility recently began accepting used consumer electronics, including computers and monitors, destined for reuse or demanufacturing.

Onyx, which assumes generator status once the waste is received, manages all non-recyclable items. Oil-based surface coatings, gasoline, paint thinners and removers either are sent out for fuels blending/solvent recovery or to an incinerator. Labpack pesticides and herbicides are also sent to an incinerator. Lithium batteries and water reactives are sent for treatment prior to incineration, and cyanide wastes, also are transported for treatment before they are disposed.

Establishing a permanent HHW drop-off site has several advantages. First, larger volumes of HHW is cheaper to dispose per-unit. Additionally, the storage space allows HHW to be consolidated, recycled and exchanged - all of which reduce disposal costs. Most important, the facility provides Morris County residents and CESQGs with a more convenient and accommodating HHW program, which lessens the potential for illegal HHW dumping by residents who are unable or unwilling to wait for the one-day collection events.

Not only is the MCMUA providing a valuable service to its own residents and businesses, but it also is serving the surrounding counties' residents who may not be willing or able to wait for their own county's HHW cleanup event.

Between the HHW facility startup on April 25, 1998, and Dec. 31, 1998, 831 residents and CESQGs delivered 92,500 pounds of HHW to the facility. Of the participants, 60 were from outside Morris County who were charged a small handling fee. In 1999, the facility received more than 144,000 pounds from 1,072 customers.

Battery Recycling Program A MCMUA household battery recycling program helps prevent used batteries from contaminating landfills and waste-to-energy facilities. In 1994, the Authority began collecting discarded rechargeable and alkaline batteries for recycling at its Recycling Consolidation Center in Dover.

Initially, only municipalities were allowed to participate in the program by delivering batteries to the center. However, in 1998, the MCMUA began accepting batteries from commercial generators, charging a small handling fee for the service. The batteries are collected by Radiac Environmental Services of Brooklyn, N.Y., and shipped to Inmetco, Ellwood City, Pa., for recycling.

Since 1994, the MCMUA has recycled more than 116,000 pounds of batteries. The cost per pound has gradually decreased from a high of $1.83 per pound to its current low price of $.31 per pound.

Universal Waste Recycling Program To encourage New Jersey businesses to properly manage their hazardous wastes, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Trenton, N.J., initiated a Universal Waste Recycling Pilot Program. All counties were invited to participate, and in March 1997, the MCMUA received a Certificate of Authority to operate a pilot recycling program for fluorescent light bulbs and ballasts. Mercury switches later were added to the list of universal waste accepted by the Authority's Dover Recycling Consolidation Center.

Fluorescent lamp disposal can be a complicated process, but it is noteworthy because the mercury in the lamps is harmful. Since 1985, the average mercury content per 4-foot lamp has decreased from 48 milligrams (mgs) to 23 mgs of mercury. Nevertheless, after batteries, lamp waste is the second largest source of mercury contamination. The United States disposes of 550 million lamps per year, equal to nearly 20 tons of mercury.

While fluorescent lamps currently are not included as a mandated recyclable in the Morris County Solid Waste Management Plan, by participating in the pilot, the MCMUA can use the universal waste regulations, as opposed to the hazardous waste regulations, to reduce the recorded quantity of hazardous waste it generates.

Universal waste does not require manifesting for transportation and/or disposal, so there are potential recordkeeping and disposal cost reductions. Additionally, warehouse/storage space can be freed up by recycling bulbs and ballasts.

Recycling also provides productive reuse for thousands of tons of glass, aluminum, phosphor powder and elemental mercury. In addition, recycling frees landfills from extended liability.

Currently, the Authority recycles all spent fluorescent lamps collected from Morris County government offices. Since the start of the MCMUA's universal waste recycling program, more than 410,600 fluorescent lamp feet containing almost 7 pounds of liquid mercury have been recycled. This equals approximately 78 miles of lamp feet in length (about the distance between Morris County and New York City and back). Additionally, 16,325 pounds of ballasts have been safely managed for metals recycling and PCB recovery.

Solid Waste Materials Exchange Program The MCMUA's Materials Exchange Program also targets reusable materials before they enter the waste stream.

Aiming at specific materials, such as durable goods, heavy industrial products and food, the Authority helps redistribute items to charities and individuals. The benefits to this program include reduced disposal costs, avoided purchasing costs, greenhouse gas reductions and, where applicable, employment opportunities, such as repairing electronic goods.

The reuse process begins when a corporation decides to "clear out its clutter." The MCMUA matches items such as desks, chairs, bookcases and computers - otherwise doomed to the garbage dumpster - with nonprofit organizations.

The Authority uses mail and faxes to notify nonprofits of this service.

Large donations usually are offered through a Materials Exchange event, where nonprofits travel to a corporate site and remove the items they want. With smaller donations, the charity contacts the donor directly.

To date, the MCMUA estimates non-profit organizations have saved more than $400,000 using donated items rather than buying them. Past donors include: Allied Signal, Dime Savings Bank, Ashland Chemical, Andersen Consulting, Coopers & Lybrand, Dave's Office Installations and Deloitte & Touche LLP.

Tire Recycling Program During the past 10 years, the MCMUA has coordinated and funded a series of tire collection programs to help prevent the material from entering landfills. These programs have involved several collection procedures, including:

* Residents, businesses and municipalities may deliver tires to the Parsippany Transfer Station throughout the year. The cost is $2 per car and $5 per truck tire.

* Twice each year, the Authority uses grant funding to sponsor tire collection programs for municipalities. They, in turn, run collection programs for their residents.

During the MCMUA tire collection programs, municipalities may deliver tires to the Mount Olive Transfer Station at no cost. However, municipalities must provide the labor to load the tires onto trailers.

* The MCMUA collects and disposes of tires generated by the Morris County Road/Bridge division and other county agencies.

For the most part, the MCMUA has used two markets for tire disposal. Integrated Tire, Bayonne, N.J., shreds the tires, which then are used as tire-derived fuel in power plants. F & B Enterprises Inc., New Bedford, Mass., recycles large truck tires by cutting the sidewalls from the tread section, cutting circles and other shapes from the sidewalls, then lining up the circles on their flat sides to create rubber wheels for roll-off containers.

The other shapes are used in a variety of applications. For example, some processed rubber from passenger tires is sent to California for use in the soles of Splaff Flop sandals, a brand of 100 percent recycled shoes.

Overall, F & B estimates that 75 percent of the tires are recycled into another use; 20 percent is shredded and used as tire-derived fuel in paper mills and 5 percent is steel bead, which also is recycled.

In total, during the past 10 years, 120,000 tires have been disposed of through the MCMUA's programs. This has resulted in cleaning up litter, eliminating potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes, diverting approximately 1,200 tons of tires from accumulating in illegal piles and turning the rubber and steel back into valuable products.

Publicity and Promotion The Authority publicizes its special waste management programs in a number of ways:

* Informational Pamphlets. Residents have received brochures announcing HHW cleanup days, the availability of the permanent HHW facility, the universal waste recycling program, compost and wood chips sales and the materials exchange program. A publication describing non-toxic alternatives to hazardous waste is also distributed.

* Hotline. A HHW hotline provides residents with information about current HHW management programs and activities, as well as answers questions and concerns about HHW 24 hours a day.

* Local Publicity. The Authority uses local newspapers, television stations and radio stations to publicize its programs. Press releases are sent to local newspapers, and ads are purchased several times a year in a widely distributed local newspaper. An Earth Day announcement was recorded at a local radio station. One local cable television station sponsors 15-minute question-and-answer sessions about the hazardous waste and materials exchange program several times a year.

In addition, the Authority's recycling education specialist presents a program, "A Tour of Trash and Treasure," featuring a color slide tour of Morris County solid waste, recycling and HHW facilities. HHW brochures also are distributed at these sessions. The MCMUA also hosts a website, www. mcmua.com, that provides information about Morris County's solid waste and recycling activities.

* Feedback. A survey was taken at a HHW cleanup event to evaluate the public's level of awareness of the event.

* Newsletters. The WRAGtimes, the MCMUA's newsletter, is published and mailed twice a year. The Authority also contributes to the Association of New Jersey Household Hazardous Waste Coordinators newsletter.

* Website. The MCMUA has a comprehensive website located at www. mcmua.com

Since in the 1980s, the MCMUA has served as a trendsetter in solid waste and recycling. Its goal is to insure that at least one county in the most densely populated state in the nation does its best to minimize environmental pollution.

And by providing an outlet for commercial businesses to properly manage this misunderstood element of the waste stream and reduce hazardous waste generation, the MCMUA is making Morris County a cleaner and safer place for its present and future residents, businesses and institutions.

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