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Clear out the toxins at town Hazardous Waste Day

By Megan Tackett 
Special to The Sopris Sun 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, driving one mile emits about 411 grams of carbon dioxide. So, roundtrip from Carbondale to the South Canyon Landfill in Glenwood Springs, the average driver will emit 12,330 grams of carbon dioxide — not to mention having to spend more than one hour in the car. Fortunately, locals wanting to also be exemplary environmental stewards won’t have to make that trek Saturday; they can simply go to the town’s Household Hazardous Waste Day.

From 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Carbondale residents with local identification can dispose of their electronics, batteries and liquids, such as paints and cleaning supplies, at the lots behind and across from the Town Hall at the Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue intersection. It’s an opportunity for people to safely and responsibly dispose of their household hazardous wastes without having to leave town or, for most products, pay additional recycling fees — an aspect that differentiates Carbondale’s event from similar ones held in other cities, including Glenwood Springs, for example. Carbondale’s bag fee (the additional money shoppers pay for disposable bags at the grocery store checkout), funds much of the biannual event, allowing services to be free to in-town residents, said Julia Farwell, chairperson of the Environmental Board and organizer of Household Hazardous Waste Day.

“A lot of people think, ‘OK, I bought a bag. Where does that money go?’” she said of the bag fee. “It gets circulated back into the community through events like these. The money is supposed to be used for waste-aversion efforts.”

This year’s event will utilize about $11,000 from the bag fee fund, plus an additional $20,000 from the utilities budget. The free LED lights and compost that are provided at the event are funded by the bag fee, as well, Farwell added.

“So it’s really a $31,000 event and people really should come and take advantage of it. Please do,” she said.

And that they do. Public Works Streets Superviser Smiley Wise estimates that anywhere between 40 to 60 people show up. “They’ll always manage to fill all the barrels that the hazardous waste people bring,” he said. “I’ll be there — haven’t missed one yet!”

Not everything accepted at the Household Hazardous Waste Day will be free to drop off. This year, residents can bring refrigerators and freezers, but fees will be about $50 for a mini-fridge and $125 for a commercial unit. While it’s nice that more common household products are free to recycle at the event, it’s not unreasonable to charge to safely dispose of more complex items, according to Alyssa Reindel, who co-founded EverGreen ZeroWaste with her husband, Dave Reindel.

“These are toxics,” she said. “It’s a big deal to have to disassemble them and dispose of them properly and recycle what you can. Julia’s done a really good job of working with and partnering with companies that have that whole process down and are responsible,” she said of the recyclers that collaborate with the Environmental Board for the event.

Cody Skurupey, who owns Brite Ideas Bulb Recycling, is one such partner. He says a big factor in his industry is education. “People just aren’t really educated. They don’t really have to be,” he said, because his business and others fill that niche. “I recycle lamps that don’t have any mercury in them. I recycle bulbs that have lots of mercury in them. That way, other people don’t have to figure out what’s what.” CFL light bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury — not enough to be harmful in one light bulb, but it’s recommended that they be recycled instead of thrown away to avoid compounded potential risks.

“Pitkin County is an old landfill,” Reindel said. “It’s not lined. People who aren’t composting, [they’re] putting their food in there. So you have all that moisture in there and you have all this other stuff, and everything starts settling. And say you have mercury, or like a computer CRT, those things are then going to be washed out with the moisture from the food into your soils and hopefully not make it to your watershed, but that’s the potential.”

Skurupey says that’s one of the reasons the Household Hazardous Waste Day is such a service to the community.  

“I really like doing this because people really appreciate it, and they come in droves,” Farwell said. “They don’t want to have to drive to Glenwood or to Aspen to the landfills.”

This year will be Farwell’s last year as chairperson of the Environmental Board. That doesn’t mean she won’t be involved in Household Hazardous Waste Day, however.

“I’m a project person. That’s what I’m best at,” she said of her departure from the role after serving for two years. “Boots on the ground is where I am. I’m not a meetings person. I just want to be involved in projects.” The Household Hazardous Waste Day will remain among her projects, she said.

Reindel and Farwell emphasized that people don’t have to stockpile their household waste for an event that happens every two years. There are plenty of in-town options throughout the year that don’t involve driving down (or up) Highway 82.

“People can recycle their paint at ACE Hardware for free,” Farwell said. ACE Hardware is Carbondale’s local PaintCare drop site (other dropsite locations can be found at www.paintcare.org). Additionally, Alpine Bank accepts used cell phones and compact flourescent (CFL) light bulbs. Of course, local thrift stores accept like-new household items, but they are not dump sites for trash.

One of the more affordable ways to reduce household waste throughout the year — often by almost half, according to Waste Free Roaring Fork — is to compost. EverGreen ZeroWaste offers curbside pickup services and is giving out free finished compost during the Household Hazardous Waste Day. “Finished compost is a really good addition to your soil,” Reindel said. “And doing it in the fall allows it all to mix in and settle before the spring. You’re giving it a little vitamin boost before everything gets covered with the snow.”

For those wanting to get involved, the Environmental Board is seeking new members. Email asprang@carbondaleco.net or call (970) 510-1215 for more information.