BEWARE! It lurks in your home.

And no, we’re not talking about spiders, rats or ghosts. We’re talking about household hazardous waste (HHW). HHW can be any unwanted item in your home with the words “danger,” “warning” or “caution” on the label.

About 50 percent of HHW disposed of in the Kansas City metro area is latex paint. So, what makes up the other 50 percent? Unfortunately, materials that are significantly more hazardous to you, your family, and your pets. These items can be flammable, toxic, corrosive or reactive if not properly used and managed. They should never be disposed in the trash or down the drain as they can end up in the local water supply where they endanger both people and wildlife.

Following are the areas in your home where HHW lies in wait.

Garage/basement

The bigger the space the more room for HHW, and that’s why garages and basements are a favorite place to lurk. In addition to latex paint, these areas are home to latex’s more dangerous siblings: oil paint, spray paint, sealants and stains. Two other big offenders are automotive fluids such as motor oil, antifreeze and windshield cleaner, and lawn and garden products such as fertilizers, weed killers, and pesticides. Other equally dangerous materials include barbeque products like lighter fluid and charcoal briquettes, and car-care products like cleaning sprays and foams.

Under the kitchen sink

If you look beyond the dishwasher soap and cleaning bucket, you’ll see an array of bottles staring back at you, almost all of them containing hazardous chemicals. These include oven cleaners, countertop cleaners, glass cleaners and drain openers.

In the bathroom

Your medicine cabinet is home to some of the most dangerous products of all. Apart from medicines (both prescription and over the counter), you may have nail polish and remover, and hair coloring and straightening products. Let’s not forget what hides in the vanity either: tile cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and disinfectant wipes.

Get it out!

Ever seen a horror movie in which a scary voice says, “Get out!”? Well, think of all that scary HHW in your home and “Get it out!” Kansas residents can take HHW to their county’s HHW facility for free. Missouri residents have several free and fee-based options for proper HHW disposal. Check RecycleSpot.org to find the nearest police station or pharmacy that will accept your old medicines and prescription drugs.

Safe alternatives

Even when used as directed, many household chemicals can endanger our health and safety. Fortunately, safe alternative products are readily available, easy to use and often cheaper than their more dangerous counterparts. To make your home safer, download the Safe Alternatives to Household Chemicals brochure.

For more information visit Hazardous Waste.

Highlighting 2013

The MARC Solid Waste Management District held its 2013 Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. Dr. Joseph Martinich, University of Missouri — St. Louis, spoke about the benefits of recycling on Missouri’s economy. The district also recognized several individuals and organizations that have made notable contributions to regional waste management and recycling efforts. The 2013 Special Recognition Award recipients were:

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Public Employee — Marleen Leonce, Kansas City, Missouri.
The Public Employee award recognizes a public employees who has shown dedication to the development and advancement of waste reduction and recycling through individual achievement and commitment.

Individual Supporter —  Brian Alferman.
The Individual Supporter award recognizes an individual who has made exceptional contributions and commitment to the district’s waste reduction and recycling efforts.

Green Event — Northland Recycling Extravaganza, cities of Parkville and Riverside.
The Green Event award recognizes a special event that promotes sustainable practices. Meredith Hauck with the City of Riverside and Kendall Welch, Parkville Alderman accepted this award.

Waste Industry — Heritage Environmental Services.
The Waste Industry award recognizes outstanding waste reduction and recycling efforts for a business in the waste industry. Tanya Cotton accepted this award.

Environmental Educator — Green Works in Kansas City.
The Environmental Educator award recognizes an individual or group for commitment to educating others about the need for and benefit of waste reduction and recycling. Kate Corwin accepted this award.

Please join us in congratulating our award recipients and their contributions to help the region achieve its goal of 80 percent waste diversion.

Household Hazardous Waste – where does it go?

Have you ever wondered what happens to the material you drop off at the Kansas City Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) facility or at a mobile collection event? Depending on the material, it may be used as fuel, treated and used as an ingredient in a new product, or filtered or cleaned to make it usable again. In total, about 90–95 percent of the material that comes through the regional HHW program is recycled or recovered as waste-to-energy.

For example:icons-vertical-es

  • Good-quality latex paint is processed, filtered and sold back to the public. Latex paint that can’t be reused is sent offsite to a waste-to-energy plant.
  • Oil-based paints, flammable liquids and aerosols are sent to a plant in Arkansas where they are turned into an alternative fuel for use in cement kilns. The propellants from aerosols are recaptured and the metal from the cans is recycled.
  • Antifreeze is recovered locally and goes through a coolant distillation process with a 97 percent recovery rate for reuse.
  • Used oil is burned in the HHW facility’s used-oil furnace for heat, sent to Habitat Restore for use in its used-oil furnace, or sent to an approved local oil recycler.
  • Fluorescent bulbs — including CFLs — are sent to a facility for recycling. The mercury is recovered and the glass and metal are recycled.
  • All batteries are recycled. Heavy metals and casings are recovered and hydroxide compounds are burned off. The materials produced are used to make new batteries, metal alloys and corrosion-resistant coatings.
  • Lead acid batteries are recycled. The lead is recovered to 99 percent purity, the sulfuric acid is neutralized and discharged under permit, and the plastics are recycled into new battery casings.
  • Acids, caustics, pesticides, oxidizers and flammable solids are sent to a hazardous waste incinerator where they are treated in a furnace at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. .
  • Small propane cylinders are sent to a facility where the propane is reclaimed and the metal is recycled.
  • Metal paint cans are sent to a local metal recycler; empty plastic cans and bottles are sent to landfills; empty cans from flammable liquids are sent to landfills; and cardboard boxes from drop-offs are returned to the customers for them to recycle.

There are two more mobile events this season, but permanent HHW collection facilities are open year-round.

It’s your home, make it safe: a (very) short history of the HHW program

HHW-logo-w.tagline-horiz-300x155In 1993, planners in Kansas City, Mo., began to study ways to safely collect and dispose of household hazardous waste (HHW). Two years later, on a June weekend in 1995, nearly 4,300 people waited in long lines to properly dispose of their HHW in the area’s first mobile HHW collection event. This event, hosted by the city of Kansas City and sponsored in part by the MARC Solid Waste Management District (SWMD), demonstrated residents’ concerns about hazardous materials stored in their homes and their commitment to the safe and proper disposal of HHW.

One-third of the people who participated in that first HHW collection event in 1995 were people who lived outside the city limits of Kansas City, which highlighted the need for a regional program. The opening of the Kansas City HHW collection facility in September 1996, as part of the city’s environmental campus, offered the SWMD an opportunity to design a regional collection program. The district formally created the Regional HHW Collection Program in 1997 and offered 18 mobile collection events that year.

In the spring of 1997, the city of Lee’s Summit built the region’s second HHW facility, using funds from the district’s grant program. This facility is located at the Lee’s Summit Resource Recovery Park.

Today, the Regional HHW Collection Program provides residents of participating communities with access to both of the permanent HHW facilities and several mobile collection events held in outlying communities each year. The program is funded by a per capita fee paid annually by each participating city or county. To ensure the success of the program, the district provides grant funds to help meet unanticipated disposal costs and support education and promotional efforts.

Since the program started, more than 6 million pounds of HHW have been collected and safely disposed. More than 90 percent of the HHW material collected is recycled, reused or recovered through waste-to-energy methods.

Visit RecycleSpot.org to learn more about HHW, including facility hours and locations, participating communities, this year’s mobile collection schedule, and materials accepted.