By Bob Spencer, Executive Director WSWMD
One of the most expensive waste materials to collect, recycle, and dispose of is household hazardous waste, or HHW. According to Vermont DEC, HHW “includes any household products labelled ‘caution, toxic, danger, hazard, warning, poisonous, reactive, corrosive, or flammable’. Many of these products are very common and can be purchased from local hardware, automotive, and grocery stores to be used in our houses, garages, lawns, and gardens. Because these products are so common and easy to purchase, many people forget that HHW can be extremely harmful to their health or the environment.”
WSWMD and other districts are required by DEC to provide at least four HHW collection events per year to member towns. As shown below, WSWMD’s most recent collection in Vernon, in June 2019, served 36 Vernon households, about 4% of the 856 households in Vernon, a relatively high rate of participation compared to other towns.
Vernon residents regularly participate in District HHW collection events, including those held each fall at the District’s Old Ferry Road location. Here are the total number of Vernon households served for the past 8 years:
2012 – 8 households
2012 – 8 households
2013 – 59 households (one event in Vernon)
2014 – 23 households
2015 – 16 households
2016 – 4 households
2017 – 4 households
2018 – 9 households
2019 – 36 households (one event in Vernon)
2020 – 4 households
Total Vernon Households: 2012 – 2020 = 163
It is very expensive to hire licensed contractors to operate the collection events. The cost to collect and process HHW from 36 Vernon households in 2019 was $14,654, not including promotion, or District staffing, with an average cost of about $407 per household. If the Town were not a member of WSWMD, the Town would be responsible for providing a minimum of two HHW collections per year, or to operate a permanent HHW collection site.
New HHW Depot- In an effort to reduce the costs of HHW event collections and increase convenience for residents, WSWMD applied for and received a state grant to construct a permanent HHW collection facility at Old Ferry Road, Brattleboro. The facility is a special storage cabinet with three compartments for various types of waste, and has a dry fire suppression system. Once the required permit is received the depot will open in Spring of 2021 for certain hours each week to serve all District residents. Small businesses will also be able to use the site by appointment.
It is anticipated that the depot will reduce the cost of HHW collection since an outside contractor will not have to be hired to operate each event. A contractor will still be used to pickup the HHW at the depot once or twice per year.
Four district staff members now have the required training to manage such a HHW depot, and will sort and package material dropped off by residents for storage in the special container until the waste is collected.
Member towns will be notified by WSWMD once the HHW depot is ready to open, and publicize the days and hours it will be open.
There will be a minimum charge of $10/household to utilize the HHW depot. Fortunately, DEC provides some funding each year to solid waste districts to help off-set the cost of managing HHW, but that too is less than the actual costs.