Too toxic to trash

An opinion

By David Loomis

INDIANA – On Saturday, Indiana County’s recycling center will host its fourth special collection of hazardous household waste.

In three earlier one-day events dating to September 2017, the center reports citizens recycled nearly 12 tons of paints, pesticides, pool chemicals, propane tanks, batteries, bulbs, ballasts and other stuff the EPA defines as corrosive, explosive, flammable, reactive or toxic. In your home.

Those recyclers are serious citizens. They must take stock of their household waste and make a 10-minute appointment with the recycling contractor for a drop-off time between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.  When they arrive on Saturday, their waste must be weighed. Then they must pay — $1.50 a pound mostly — for the privilege of protecting the planet.

These local recycling efforts are praiseworthy. But they represent the tip of a dirty environmental iceberg. By some estimates:

— The United States generates about 230 million tons of trash every year – about 4.6 pounds per person per day. 

— The United States produces more trash than any other nation on earth – 5 percent of the world’s population produces 40 percent of the world’s waste.

— Less than one quarter of our trash is recycled. (Germany, the world’s best recycler, recycles more than half of its waste.)

ALAS, Tim Long, manager of Indiana County’s recycling center, said public interest in recycling hazardous household waste appeared to be lagging locally.

“For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be as much interest as in years before,” Long said in an Aug. 30 interview at his office. ‘We’re not getting the response.”

Reasons may include cost and inconvenience. The county’s recycling events are occasional, and the bill for buckets of water-based paints in the basement can produce mild sticker shock.

Other localities in the region have stepped up their game. Pittsburgh, for example, recently opened a new recycling center and made arrangements with the same waste contractor for more frequent drop-offs and significantly lower rates.


TRUE, local families can grasp the full cost of consumer products when they pay for the products’ responsible disposal and ponder how to make the exchange more sustainable.

But citizens can show interest in Pittsburgh-style upgrades to county recycling services by registering for a Saturday appointment. Mr. Long urged citizens to call or register online before 3 p.m. Friday.


David Loomis, Ph.D., emeritus professor of journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is editor of The HawkEye.

The HawkEye invites comments on this and other issues of community interest. Email

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