A SPECIAL REPORT:
Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program
The Foundation and the Green Valley Council have been supporting the collection of Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) for the past two years. Starting in the late 1990s, Pima County helped support this worthwhile environmental stewardship program, but in 2014 ceased its support after the Spring collection event. Until that time collections were held in the Spring and Fall of each year.
Despite a significant lack of funding, the Foundation and the Council decided to continue the local program for several reasons: 1) to help preserve a fragile desert ecosystem, free of contaminants; 2) to help preserve the viewscape from unsightly, illegal dumping sites; 3) to continue a program that has the support of the community residents and a trained force of 80-90 volunteers; and 4) to provide a service, not easily accommodated in people’s busy lives.
With a grant award from the Tohono O’odham Nation in the amount of $14,200, a $2,000 donation from La Posada in Green Valley, and an in-kind donation of hazardous waste containers from Freeport-MacMoRan, the Foundation was able to hold a single HHW collection event in 2015. Grant awards from the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation and White Elephant, Inc., for 2016 helped support the 2016 Spring HHW collection event in Green Valley and will subsidize the 2016 Fall collection event in the Town of Sahuarita (see below).
The enthusiasm of the participants has not abated and each scheduled event has resulted in a greater number of households served as they combine their loads into one vehicle for drop-off and, in turn, this practice adds considerably greater amounts of hazardous and recyclable materials collected for reprocessing and refurbishing.
The following report summarizes the data trends from 2000 to 2016, for which we have data, and provides up-to-date information for the collection event held on March 19, 2016.
A banner identifying the event’s sponsors greeted drivers as they turned into the Valley Presbyterian Church parking lot on Saturday morning. Although drivers started entering the parking lot at 8:00 AM, volunteers and workers for other nonprofit organizations had already been setting up for the event for two hours, since 5:00 AM. Putting up traffic cones for drop-off lanes, barricading off areas from inadvertent pedestrians and cars, setting up tables and chairs under tents, positioning trucks in designated areas, locating volunteer stations for unloading, transporting, and collecting different types of materials, donning safety gear, that and more kept the volunteers extremely busy. Part of the adjacent GVR parking lot for the Desert Hills Recreation Center is also used as a staging area.
The Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers (SAV) also began early, as loaded vehicles lined up along Camino del Sol at 7:00 AM. Not only are greater Green Valley residents early risers, some wanted to be sure their documents were going to be shredded on-site. Secured shredding was the only recyclable activity that was limited to one truckload on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Each vehicle is greeted upon entry, and drivers and passengers are told to stay in their cars. This policy is intended to avoid confusion and avoid accidents. No one is allowed to bring in hazardous waste or other types of waste or recyclable items on foot, and all pedestrians are escorted off site if they trespass. Volunteers direct vehicles to the appropriate drop-off lanes and move cars forward as they are unloaded by volunteers who are responsible for special handling of waste. The time it takes to move through the lanes is dependent upon the number of cars and the amount of waste and recyclables they carry. The well-designed traffic control plan permitted drivers to thread their way smoothly through all drop-off lanes, without doubling back, and exited well away from the entrance.
There was a steady stream of vehicles throughout the morning. During the four-hour period, 758 vehicles passed through the drop-off lanes. This is not the largest number of vehicles serviced in a collections event (see Table 1). But the amount of materials—presumed to result from the publicity campaign stressing the idea of one vehicle serving two or more households—was greater. It also means that the number of households being serviced is nearing capacity for a single morning. In the past the number of vehicles participating in the two seasonal events were nearly equal. The same is expected to be the case in Sahuarita.
ugh HHW collection events have occurred on colder and rainier occasions, it was a sunny and beautiful Saturday morning. Green Valley Council members and staff greeted the participants, and accepted tax deductible, charitable gifts from drivers and passengers who offered. Jessica Schiff was our smiling “leprechaun” and her “pail” of gold held approximately $2,600 by the end of the morning.
As stated above, funding for the HHW 2016 Spring and Fall collection events came from grants awarded by the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation, $21,079.80, and White Elephant, Inc., $9,000.00. Contributors, sponsors, and in-kind service providers will make up the rest of the cost of putting on the two collection events. The total costs for 2016 were estimated at $71,000.00. Grants funds make up less than half that amount, around 42%.
In 2016, The GVC Foundation, Inc., and the Green Valley Council signed an agreement for the Council to manage the event. Until 2015, the HHW Program had been carried out by the Community Services Committee, a standing committee of the Green Valley Council. The 2016 events and subsequent events are now carried out by a subcommittee of the Community Services Committee. Joe McCalpin chairs the HHW Subcommittee and his team of seven (7) volunteers started planning the event in January 2016. Approximately 250 volunteer hours were spent in the planning process, 200 hours by subcommittee members and an added 40 plus hours by the Council’s Executive Board. Further assistance was provided by the Council’s paid administrative staff.
On the day of the event, approximately 80 volunteers and coordinators worked two, two-hour shifts to unload and collect waste and recyclables: 250 hours. In addition, volunteers were responsible for the following activities: directing traffic (SAV, 40 hours); disposing of old and used medications (Dispose-A-Med Program, 30 hour); and recycling paper (Lions Club (20 hours). Miscellaneous hours were donated by a Pima County Sheriff’s Deputy for Dispose-A-Med, the Council hosts, and members of the Green Valley and Saharita Community Food Bank. The volunteer hours totaled approximately 600 hours overall. The in-kind contribution for this number of volunteer hours is valued at $14,136 based on the national average of $23.56/hour, as estimated by the Independent Sector (www.independentsector.org/volunteer_time) for 2015.
The HHW collection events always includes the participation of the Green Valley and Sahuarita Community Food Bank. The food bank collected 182 pounds of food and $218.99 in cash at this event.
The Dispose-A-Med team processed 150 pounds of dry meds and 2 gallons of liquids or “Peabody Soup,” named for Eddie Peabody, the volunteer who squeezed the last drop of the bottles.
As expected, the disposal of hazard waste materials was the focus of the event. A little over 7,900 pounds was collected and transported to the Southwest Hazard Control center in Tucson. It costs almost $2.00/lb to collect and dispose of these hazardous materials properly.
In addition, to the Green Valley Sahuarita Community Food Bank, three other nonprofit organizations also participate in the collection events. This year RISE, which is a subsidiary of COPE, collected more at this event than it ever had, leaving with a truckload of electronics weighing approximately 10,000 pounds. Creating jobs for RISE employees, the nonprofit organization specializes in refurbishing and repurposing electronic devices to donate and to resell to low income families.
The Council partnered with the Beacon Group to collect latex paint at this event. Though no longer listed as a hazardous material, the 16,400 gallons of paint collected can be reprocessed and resold in 2 and 5 gallon quantities. The Beacon Group trains developmentally disabled individuals for employment and the resale of the paint helps support their efforts. The Beacon Group also contracts with businesses in Tucson and the surrounding area to provide long-term employment for their trained personnel.
The Lions’ Club of Green Valley volunteers at every collection event to collect bulk paper products.
In all a total of 19,866 pounds or ca. 10 tons of waste and recyclables were collected. (Note: Because of the nature and type of recycling, neither paper nor food is included in the total number of pounds. The weight of a gallon of paint is estimated at 9 lbs/gal; and the weight of a gallon of liquid medication was estimated as equal to the weight of 1 gallon of water, i.e., 8 lbs/gal.)
Because every person in the US generates 4 pounds of HHW over the course of the year and 1.5 pounds of recyclables per day, on average, 10 tons of waste and recyclables is a significant amount. But to try to approximate the level of conservation or stewardship per household is difficult to measure, at best. Unfortunately, we do not know the number of months of collecting that is associated with each household. Neither do we know the number of households represented by each vehicle. What we do know is that 10 tons of unprocessed HHW and recyclables were removed from the environment, thereby preventing these materials from polluting and poisoning 1) surface and ground water, 2) wild life and plant life, as well as their habitats, and 3) even the atmosphere. The Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona is a unique and beautiful landscape, but also a fragile one. Removal of potential threats such as hazardous waste over the years (see Table 2) is an important conservation measure that will help keep it alive and thriving.
As an added benefit, the removal of tons of waste protects the viewscape. Illegal dumping and littering is unsightly, as well as dangerous. Once waste and litter are dumped, it does not take long for the dumps to grow as people copy this cavalier behavior and add their own waste.
Finally, the ability to carry off the 2016 Spring collection event in Green Valley could not have been accomplished without the in-kind support of the Green Valley News and Sahuarita Sun newspaper and KGVY Radio in advertising the event, the cash contribution by KGVY for secure paper shredding and by the Green Valley Arts and Crafts Organization for supplies, and vehicles and equipment lent by Green Valley Recreation and the Town of Sahuarita.
Green Valley’s partner, the Town of Sahuarita, helped defray costs in a number of areas, not only lending a truck, but participating in the planning of the event, providing tables, chairs, and a hand-cart, and bringing barricades and traffic cones to the event.
A special thank you is extended to Joe McCalpin and his team for ensuring the success of this Spring’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection.