McLean County helps dispose of hazardous waste

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Ben Zentner, Staff Writer

 

According to the Ecology Action Center’s website, “whether [household hazardous waste] is thrown out with regular trash going to a municipal waste landfill, dumped illegally down the drain, storm sewer or in a ditch, these actions compromise the safety of drinking water, thereby threatening the health and well-being of area residents.”

On Oct. 17, the Ecology Action Center hosted the McLean County Household Hazardous Waste Collection event. The event aimed to encourage McLean county residents to dispose of their home toxins responsibly. Usually, proper disposal of special substances is costly and difficult to accomplish. The collection was free and open to the public, making eco-friendly disposal available to all.

The Ecology Action Center is a Bloomington-based nonprofit organization that works to ensure that McLean County’s environment is protected from threats such as household hazardous waste. This is their third event to collect such byproducts. The organization plans to host another collection in two years.

The state of Illinois has stopped funding similar efforts, making it increasingly difficult to properly dispose of the dangerous materials. “The town of Normal and the city of Bloomington contributed and lots of businesses and individuals contributed as well,” Illinois Wesleyan University professor Laurine Brown said. “The Ecology Action Center would be the first to say they can’t take all the credit. It will only work if a lot of people are involved.”

The collection was heavily advertised through mediums like newspaper, radio, Facebook and the mail. The final tally of cars that came through the drop-off checkpoint was 1,590 vehicles, representing “1,600 households [worth of hazardous waste] easily” according to Larissa Armstrong, Ecology Action Center Program Assistant.

Michael Brown, Executive Director of the Ecology Action Center, was impressed by the “strong improvement from the last event” and sited a “22 percent increase in car traffic at the event.”

Several IWU students volunteered at the event, including senior Kevin Ryan and first-year Cathy Peng. “I was asking people where they’re from and not every zip code was 61701. It was cool to see how many people from outside of Bloomington came,” Ryan said.

Brown stated that the takeaway from the event is that prevention is the answer.

“That’s the bigger picture that we all need to be focused on. The biggest priority is source reduction of waste, hazardous or not,” Brown said. “That is the most cost effective, most secure and most reliable strategy in the big picture. Even the proper disposal of waste is expensive and has issues in terms of hazardous waste landfills.”

Brown believes that college students and the next generation of consumers have massive potential to change our buying habits.

“A lot of consumer goods contain toxic components. Younger generations should be conscious of the power and responsibility they have to make good decisions as a consumer,” Brown said. “The retail price is not the true cost of the products you buy because that price does not account for the waste produced at the end of its use.”