BANGOR Maine — Managing household hazardous waste, meaning products labeled as caution, poison, toxic, flammable, pesticide, warning, combustible, and or danger is important for your health and the environment, and improperly disposing of such waste is illegal. It is for this reason that every year on Oct. 22, communities join together in an effort to manage hazardous waste by properly disposing of it.
The annual waste collection event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Public Works Center located at 530 Maine Ave. in Bangor. Trained attendants will be on hand to unload hazardous materials from participants’ vehicles. All hazardous waste should be transported in the trunks of cars, or in the beds of trucks, not in the passenger compartments.
Bangor’s Environmental Coordinator Wendy Warren stressed that it is important to keep hazardous waste items out of the region’s Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC) incinerator, which is where most of the region’s waste goes, because PERC does not have the equipment in the smoke stack necessary to remove the harmful airborne materials that possibly could occur during incineration.
She also noted that The Environmental Protection Agency has a strict set of rules for this type of waste if it is generated by a business or institution, but because of the complexity of trying to enforce these rules on individual households, the agency cannot properly regulate household hazardous waste.
“From an EPA perspective and the state of Maine perspective, these collection events are extremely important,” Warren said.
Residents who intend to participate first need to make a list of items they intend to dispose of and register at their local town office before noon Friday, Sept. 30. The 22 towns participating in the collection event are: Bangor, Brewer, Carmel, Clifton, Dedham, Dixmont, Eddington, Etna, Glenburn, Hampden, Hermon, Holden, Kenduskeag, Milford, Newburgh, Old Town, Orono, Orrington, Penobscot Nation, Stockton Springs, Veazie and Winterport.
Residents must be preregistered and have a household hazardous waste permit when they drop off their waste for collection or be charged a $10 fee on the day of the event. There will be no charge for residents who have permits. No permits will be issued after noon on the day of the event. To attain a permit, participants will need proof of residence, and a list of all materials being disposed of and their approximate quantities.
According to Warren, the event has been a success. “On average we get between 1,000 and 1,200 individual households at each annual event and between 2008 and 2010 we collected an average of 32,450 pounds of chemical waste, 3,776 pieces of universal waste (light bulbs, computer monitors and televisions) and 3,397 pounds of batteries.”
Each resident may bring only 15 gallons of household hazardous waste per permit issued. In addition, participants may bring one computer, one monitor, one keyboard and one television. To be accepted, all products must be in their original containers with labels attached and must be securely closed. For questionable items that are damaged or leaking participants should contact their local town offices for authorization.
All household hazardous waste will be accepted with the exception of propane tanks, any motor vehicle batteries or latex-based paints. After drying out, latex paint can be disposed of normally. To dispose of propane tanks and motor vehicle batteries, residents should call One Steel Recycling at 947-3710. Common alkaline batteries can be disposed of normally, but rechargeable mercury-based batteries should be brought in for collection.
Warren added that while the event helps to dispose of household hazardous waste, she does not believe it to be a permanent solution to Maine’s waste problem. “I have no idea what would be dumped if we did not have this program; however, I do not believe this event is the best solution. It would be better if we just stopped using hazardous chemicals and substituted them for nontoxic materials. That is why organizations such as Maine’s’ Environmental Health Strategy Center are working to make some of the toxic materials illegal in Maine.”