Waste removal

Getting rid of the scary stuff

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 10/26/21

MONTICELLO, NY — “We have legacy material in our houses and garages, things you don’t want to dispose of improperly,” said county recycling coordinator Bill Cutler.

He …

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Waste removal

Getting rid of the scary stuff

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — “We have legacy material in our houses and garages, things you don’t want to dispose of improperly,” said county recycling coordinator Bill Cutler.

He doesn’t mean Great-Aunt Mattie’s ugly platter. He means all things toxic and disturbingly chemical. This material was collected on October 24 at the county landfill.

It’s an organized setup: cars come in on one road, drivers are asked what they have, then the cars are emptied by employees of Tradebe Environmental Services, professional collectors of hazardous waste.

Tables are covered with the gathered chemicals from people’s lives: cans of spray paint, cans of oil-based paint, jugs of Roundup. “We’ve had a lot of pesticides this time,” Cutler says. “We had DDT, which was banned in 1972. People are really taking care to do the right thing.”

Tradebe staff sort the waste. It will all leave in bins on different trucks, labeled with placards announcing their burden.

Some items require special handling. The flammable stuff, the caustic stuff. The potentially explosive stuff, when found, means the facility is shut down. They’ve never had explosives in 20 years of collecting hazardous waste because pre-registration was required; three hours into this year’s collection, with no pre-registration, nobody brought explosives either. People are taking care.

The collection hasn’t netted picric acid, but it’s the sort of hazardous waste story you can read about online: the acid that’s just an acid till it crystallizes, and then it becomes explosive. It’s medical waste. “We’d put them in touch with a company,” Cutler said.

He breaks off and goes over to the entry lane, warning a driver that recycling isn’t being accepted today. “We want people to focus on hazardous waste.”

Construction debris isn’t being taken today either; someone came by with painted boards. For future reference: painted things are not hazardous, they’re construction/demolition waste. Latex paint is not hazardous. Dry it out naturally or mix with cheap cat litter. Throw it out. (New York is launching a paint stewardship program, which will improve matters enormously, Cutler said.)

Radioactive material—again, usually medical waste—is also too specialized for this collection.

And then there’s poison. “We had cyanide one year,” said Tradebe employee Heidi, who was hauling boxes and bins of hazardous waste out of the cars. “Five hundred milliliters. It’s amazing, the chemicals in this world. But this is the right way to get rid of them.”

The collection site overlooks the rolling green hills of the Sullivan County landfill, now closed. It had been a banner year for meadowlarks and bobolinks; the birds nest over our trash. Maybe the point of the Hazardous Waste Collection is that we need to take charge of our waste. To think about what we buy and use. “Dealing with it,” Cutler said, “is our responsibility.”

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