Household Hazardous Waste: What Happens to It?

September 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm Leave a comment

By Richard Lobinske
Hazardous Waste Manager
Leon County Solid Waste Management Division

Many things happen between the time you drop an item off at the Leon County Solid Waste Management Division’s (SWMD) Hazardous Waste Center or at a collection event, and it reaches final destination. Each step is guided by the need for personal and environmental safety.

First, after items are dropped off, each item’s condition is inspected. About a quarter of the items received are good, usable products in their original containers. You can pick up the items like this that you need for free at the Swap Shop, which keeps them out of the waste stream and avoids disposal costs.

The remaining items are then sorted by hazard. The Leon County Hazardous Waste Center has the proper storage areas and equipment to handle materials such as flammable liquids, corrosives, oxidizers, liquid or solid pesticides and waste oils. After items are sorted, they are prepared for disposal, depending on type of hazard.

Fluorescent lamps of all types are sealed in cardboard boxes. About every six to eight weeks, a contractor picks these up for transport to their facility. There, the lamps are shredded in a forced air system that separates the mercury, glass and aluminum. All three materials are collected and sold for reuse.

Latex paint is sorted to usable and waste paint. Usable paint is bulked into five gallon pails and distributed to the public once a week at no charge. With a little staff creativity, there are usually a good variety of colors. Waste paint is bulked into 55 gallon drums for either disposal in a lined landfill by our primary waste contractor, or used by a roofing company to make a low weight alternative to tar and gravel on flat roofs.

shelves with common household hazardous waste, such as paintsOil based paint is bulked into 55 gallon drums for disposal through SWMD’s contractor. The liquid portions of each drum are used in blending industrial fuels. The solids are either burned by high-temperature incineration or put in a hazardous waste landfill.

Aerosol paints are handled on site. Cans are sealed into a device mounted on a 55 gallon drum. The cans are punctured and the contents drained into the drum. Vapors are captured in a carbon filter mounted on the drum. After draining, the metal in the can is recycled though SWMD’s recycling program while the collected paint is handled like oil-based paint.

Waste motor oils, cooking oils and fuels are collected weekly by a used oil recycler. They filter the oils and sell them for the making of lubricants and fuels. The same recycler extracts oil from filters and recycles the metal.

SWMD’s electronic scrap recycler does all work in Florida, using some of the newest gear to break e-scrap down to its components. These include precious metals like gold and platinum, toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium, plus large amounts of aluminum, copper, steel, glass and plastic. These are sold to be reused in making new products.

The cardboard boxes that people often use to bring items to the center are handled by the recycling program. Non-recyclable containers and other non-hazardous waste are sent to the Leon County Transfer Station for disposal in a lined landfill.

This is just an introduction to the many ways staff handle hazardous materials for recycling or proper disposal. It keeps us busy. SWMD knows that there is a lot more household hazardous waste out there. Bring it on. Staff would like to be even busier.

Household Hazardous Waste and Electronics Collection Event

Bringing your hazardous waste to your local household hazard waste center or off-site collection is one easy way each of us can protect our air and water quality and reduce waste.

On Saturday, Oct.1, Easy As One will join Leon County Solid Waste Management Division at the Leon County Public Works Operations Center 2280 Miccosukee Rd from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Easy As One will collect used cell phones (working and non-working) along with stray chargers. Leon County will collect household hazardous waste. Participants will receive a Florida State Park day pass. While supplies last.

Location: Leon County Public Works Operations Center 2280 Miccosukee Rd, Tallahassee, Fla.
Date and time: Oct. 1, 2011, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Contact: Richard Lobinske at or Leon County Hazardous Waste at (850) 606-1803

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