The good news is that there will be a 2012 Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day and it is today, April 14. This year the SE Ohio Joint Solid Waste District is primarily responsible planning the event, and some new companies are involved.
The Washington County HHWCD began at community Earth Day Planning meetings in 1990. One meeting in particular at the Washington County Library was especially fruitful: from it came the initiative for curbside recycling in Marietta but also the start of a plan for a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day for Washington County.
The Washington County Household Hazardous Waste Committee (Dale Loudermilk from Amoco Performance Products, and residents Ann Anderson, Kim McMichael, Jon Orr, Judy Russell, Steve Spilatro, Carol Steinhagen and Marilyn Ortt) met over the rest of the year. By fall, Loudermilk had interested the Responsible Care Group which at that time consisted of American Cyanamid, Amoco (their Employees' Park became the site for the event), Chevron Chemical, Huntsman Chemical and Union Carbide not only lending their considerable expertise in dealing with hazardous materials but also to fund the event.
The planning was detailed: volunteers from the Responsible Care companies would handle all the unloading and packaging of the materials brought in. Other committee members concentrated on getting the word out to local residents about the event. The necessity of communicating the need as well as the opportunity to finally have a responsible, safe method of disposal of bags and bottles of materials lurking in the darkest corners of basements and garages was great.
It is difficult perhaps to understand what a huge project Responsible Care Group had taken on - no one knew what the turn-out might be and no one could predict what the volume and types of wastes and hence the cost would be. This HHWCD was the first in southeastern Ohio and only the fifth in the state. There were no solid waste districts or other local funding agencies. Donations were solicited from the public with good response. Just as impressive as the companies' commitment to making up the difference between donations and the final cost was the meticulous attention to safety. All volunteers helping with removing materials from vehicles and packaging them for removal from the site underwent special orientation although they worked for chemical companies. Specialized materials were on hand in case of a spill of any kind. No chances were to be taken. Recognition of the danger and irresponsibility of sending vehicles back on the highway without unloading the materials they had brought meant that if a vehicle was in line at 'closing time', they would still be unloaded.
The publicity committee manned the gate - distributing and collecting surveys filled out by participants to help determine not only the number of households participating but where participants lived, age group, how they had learned about the event; the kind of demographic information that would help in planning should there be another event.
The survey also asked for suggestions and after the event, these were carefully studied and many incorporated in future planning. One suggestion several years into the HHWCD led to Paint Swap Day - usually held the weekend before which allowed people to pick up good paint that may have been left over or the wrong color for the donor. At least one church was painted as well as a fence at a ball field using 'swapped' paint, even instructors from wood shops came to get finishes for their students.
The first of what would become 20 consecutive Household Hazardous Waste Collection Days was held April 20, 1991. Expectations were for about 1% of county households to turn out but about 2% showed up with a cost of about $60,000. And this was just the beginning. There were 20 consecutive annual HHWCDs, and through 2011 two remaining members of the original committee helped organize the collection days with the changing cast of volunteers and companies. Many Responsible Care Group employees have volunteered over the years and put in long hard days but Mark Potochnik should be recognized for the leadership he showed until he left the area two years ago.
The event is an important one for the county and its residents, present and future, and participation is no less important now than it was in 1991. So take advantage of the day to dispose of your household hazardous wastes in an environmentally safe manner.