Hazardous waste collection rarely happens full time

Tomorrow, August 23rd, is one of three household hazardous waste collection days held annually at the city of Whitehorse landfill.

Tomorrow, August 23rd, is one of three household hazardous waste collection days held annually at the city of Whitehorse landfill.

These events are somewhat popular, as they provide householders with a free opportunity to dispose of used motor oil and unwanted pesticides.

Regrettably, they are only held three times a year for the Whitehorse region.

Other Yukon communities are not so fortunate.

Some only get one household hazardous waste collection day every few years or so.

Some get none.

A common complaint heard at such events, irrespective of where and when they are held, is that they should be held more often.

What would be ideal would be a facility that would accept household hazardous waste year round.

Whenever hazardous waste is generated at home it could be immediately conveyed to the collection facility.

In this manner, the homeowner would not have to store the hazardous waste in their garage or basement.

It is a beautiful idea, and as Thomas Huxley commented about such ideas, about to be destroyed by an ugly fact.

A year round household hazardous waste collection site is just too expensive to operate.

The beauty of individual household hazardous waste collection days is that all the dangerous items are identified and cataloged, packaged up and shipped to appropriate disposal sites all on the same day.

This means the organizing, hiring of labour, collecting and shipping costs are minor.

Having a year-round facility means that hazardous waste would have to accumulate for a few months before there was enough to justify shipping it out.

The facility would have to be designed to avoid items leaking into the ground and it would also have to have an expensive fire suppressant system.

In addition to these costs, this facility would have to be staffed by trained personnel.

All in all, that’s not a cheap proposition.

Dealing with household hazardous waste can be tricky from a safety point of view.

No one wants to have a bunch of hazardous waste sitting around.

It has a tendency to leach into the ground, to catch on fire and to just generally lower real-estate values.

There is enough trouble getting zoning approved for condominium complexes.

Imagine the ‘not in my backyard’ protests that would occur if a household hazardous waste facility was proposed for any neighbourhood within Whitehorse.

The short-term solution is for residents of Whitehorse to hold onto their hazardous waste and wait until a collection day occurs.

The long-term solution is to stop generating hazardous waste.

Typical hazardous wastes include herbicides and pesticides.

There are numerous alternatives to using these items, or consider going organic.

If a pesticide is toxic enough to be handed in at a hazardous waste collection day, it probably is not the best thing to put into a garden.

As for items like used motor oil, there does not seem much alternative to not using it at the moment.

But when electric cars become mainstream the used motor oil issue will gradually fade away.

Until then, those homeowners who change their vehicle fluids themselves should hang onto the used oil until the next collection day.

Which just happens to be tomorrow.

For more information on household hazardous waste day check out the city pages in this newspaper.

It will have the time, location and a definition of what will be accepted.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.