HAZWASTE: Collecting Hazwaste One Day at a Time

People typically dispose of household hazardous waste (HHW) before they move or during spring cleaning. But what happens when leftover paint, motor oil or car batteries aren't collected separately? The results can be contaminated landfills.

That's why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Washington, D.C., has published "Household Hazardous Waste Management: A Manual for One-Day Community Collection Programs." The manual helps municipalities plan and operate one-day HHW drop-off programs and provides tips on how to manage collected HHW, minimize liability, look for funds, train collection-day staff and evaluate the program.

During an average HHW program, residents bring 50 pounds to 100 pounds of HHW at a cost of $50 to $100 per participant, the manual states.

Getting started. The first step is to assemble a resourceful committee to manage the program, according to the guide. Members could include a solid waste official, a community group or members of the business community. The committee's duties include setting program goals, obtaining funds and marketing.

The guide suggests enlisting a sponsor's help to give the event a boost. A sponsor's role includes managing funds, securing a HHW contractor, managing support agencies and involving community leaders. Another tip is to hire a licensed HHW firm to manage the collection and set up a hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facility (TSDF).

Selecting wastes and collection methods. According to the report, most people bring motor oil, paint, pesticides and car batteries to the event. However, to keep costs low, the report suggests targeting specific types of HHW material and excluding others such as asbestos, explosives and radioactives. It may be impossible to collect some materials because the TSDF will not accept them.

One-day programs typically are limited to household wastes, due to program costs. However, these programs could include small businesses that generate small quantities of hazardous wastes.

A municipality's method should be based on community needs. Officials must decide whether the program will include one-day drop-offs, mobile facilities, curbside services or establishing a permanent facility.

Selecting waste management methods. Key to any HHW program is knowing how waste will be disposed of, which products can be recycled, and how wastes that cannot be included, such as explosives or radioactives, will be handled. Planners should investigate the permits from facilities accepting the waste.

Waste management priorities should be communicated clearly to the hazardous waste contractor, the manual states.

Recycling and reusing materials reduces HHW that must be managed and lessens costs. For example, second-hand paint donated to recreation centers, schools and religious groups benefits the HHW program and the organizations, according to the manual. Reuse includes reprocessing products such as oil, antifreeze, lead acid batteries and fluorescent light bulbs.

Wastes excluded from the pickup program need alternative disposal options. For example, if explosives are brought to a one-day program, the police department can properly dispose of the materials. The EPA provides information on where to dispose of excluded materials.

Minimizing liability. Municipalities are potentially liable for accidents such as chemical spills. But, if federal, state and local requirements are followed, cities can reduce the possibility of lawsuits.

The first step in reducing liability is knowing individual waste regulations. Then, develop a safety plan that describes spill prevention, evacuation methods, and health and safety equipment location. Also, staff members and volunteers must be trained in proper safety procedures.

Critical to minimizing liability is having adequate insurance coverage. The minimum insurance includes General liability, Motor vehicle, In-transit, Indemnification clause and Worker's Compensation, according to the manual.

Funding and controlling costs. Funding a HHW program can be challenging, however, there are steps to cut costs. It may be difficult to estimate expenses because of variables such as the number of participants, the amount and type of waste collected and waste management methods.

The manual lists cost-cutting tips such as: * Reducing collection costs by recycling materials.

* Burning HHW as a supplemental fuel as opposed to incinerating - it costs less.

* Providing alternative disposal options for pesticides, explosives and radioactive materials, etc.

* Using volunteers to work with low-hazardous materials as opposed to paid workers at a one-day program; and

* Reselling materials like silver-oxide button or latex paint.

Since 1980, 3,000 programs have cost between $10,000 and $100,000 each.

For a copy of "Household Hazardous Waste Management: A Manual for One-Day Community Collection Programs," call the RCRA hotline toll-free (800) 424-9346. Request document A530-R-92-026. The household hazardous waste collection program document also can be found at www.epa.gov/epaoswer /osw/citizens.htm

The equipment needed at the collection day is supplied by either the contractor or the collection program sponsor. It usually includes: * Waste management/disposal equipment: Awning or tent (if needed for shelter), drums, absorbent for spills, shipping manifests, labels, testing equipment and a dumpster.

* Safety equipment: Plastic ground covering, safety coveralls/Tyvek suits, aprons, goggles, splash shields, gloves, respirators, traffic safety/reflector vests, eye wash hoses, fire extinguishers, first-aid kits, towels, blankets, washtubs for scrubbing contaminated clothing and air monitoring instruments (recommended for monitoring explosive vapor and organic vapor levels).

* Traffic control equipment: Traffic cones, barriers and signs.

* Furniture: Tables, benches, stools and chairs.

* Other equipment: Portable bathroom, portable water, dollies, dumpster for garbage, stapler, tape, markers, scissors, hammers, clipboards, coolers with ice, shovels, brooms and garbage bags.