Have hazardous waste? Where to go in NJ, and where it ends up
Paint, batteries, pesticides, oven cleaners, gasoline — there's a spot for all of your household hazardous waste ... and it's not with your regular trash or down the drain.
Specially licensed facilities are waiting for your toxic, flammable or corrosive waste. It's up to you to get it to the right spot, which, depending on where you live, can be a permanent facility or an assigned location for a day.
"Fires have actually started in the back of garbage trucks due to improper disposal," said JoAnn Gemenden, president of the Association of New Jersey Household Hazardous Waste Coordinators. "These are materials that certainly can be toxic to people, pets and the environment."
If you've been staring at the same three cans of paint in your garage for the past few years, there is an option in your county — either a few times per year or all year round.
Three counties — Burlington, Monmouth and Morris — feature the state's only Permanent Household Hazardous Waste facilities. The facilities in Burlington and Monmouth accept waste only from county residents. Morris will accept outside waste for a fee.
Elsewhere, counties team up with a household hazardous waste coordinator, and one-day disposal events are scheduled for residents to come by and drop off their "HHW" products, such as pool chemicals, paint thinners and automobile fluids.
"We certainly want to make sure that the programs are convenient to get to," said Gemenden, who also serves as bureau chief of Union County's Bureau of Recycling & Planning. "For those of us that have one-day events, we generally tend to move them to different locations."
The next drop-off event in Union County is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 27, rain or shine. Staff will be on hand at the Nokia location in New Providence.
Gemenden said residents can just stay in their cars, and the waste is removed by workers on site.
While some counties may limit their events to county residents, Union, Middlesex and Somerset accept waste from one another's residents, Gemenden said.
Ernie Kuhlwein, solid waste director for Ocean County, said disposal events in the county are well attended, bringing in up to 400 people each time.
The county's had six of these events already in 2018, with one more scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on September 29 in the parking lot of Point Pleasant Borough High School.
For the most part, Kuhlwein said, New Jersey residents' hazardous waste is ultimately disposed of beyond the state's borders, sometimes as far as Canada.
Materials such as motor oil, antifreeze and propane tanks can be recycled. Gasoline and other flammables can be reblended and used as fuel.
"Some of this stuff you really can't do anything with, like pesticides," Kuhlwein said. "They're going to chemically stabilize it and then probably burn it."
Ocean County is also one of the few counties in the state that offers a year-round program for recycling paint.
The availability of paint recycling would increase dramatically with legislation now before state lawmakers. The proposed law would require that a paint collection site be established within 15 miles of 90 percent of the state's population. Eight states, plus the District of Columbia, currently have a PaintCare program in place.
The state Department of Environmental Protection's website says hazardous materials should never be poured down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or put out with regular household trash.