Is hazardous household waste disposal a waste of taxpayers’ money?
While unanimously supporting the need to recycle such materials, members of the Queen Creek Town Council were divided in their opinion whether the town should foot the bill to provide such services to residents.
At their Oct. 19 regular meeting, council members voted 5-2 to approve Amendment No. 4 to an intergovernmental agreement with the town of Gilbert to use its hazardous household waste facility at a cost not to exceed $25,000 for the year.
The contract with the town of Gilbert expires Oct. 31, Ramona Simpson, the town’s environmental services supervisor, said during an interview after the meeting. She said the matter must go before the Gilbert Town Council for its members’ approval.
Voting to approve the IGA were Queen Creek Mayor Gail Barney, Vice Mayor Dawn Oliphant and council members Craig Barnes, Robin Benning and Julia Wheatley. Opposing the IGA were council members Jeff Brown and Emilena Turley, who both said they felt the service was too expensive to provide.
The town began its hazardous household waste IGA in 2012, according to Ms. Simpson’s presentation to the council at the Oct. 19 meeting. The original agreement provides for one-year renewals, based on a written agreement from both parties, to be renewed annually in October. This is the final renewal of the contract, according to a staff report in the council packet.
“This gives residents the opportunity to properly dispose of hazardous household waste,” Ms. Simpson told the council members.
Prior to the IGA, the town provided a list of recycling sites from which residents could choose to drop off their household hazardous waste. In some cases, residents would have to travel to several locations, depending on the types of waste they wanted to recycle. The Gilbert facility enables residents to drop off most hazardous household waste to one location.
The program, she said, also helps to divert the waste from the landfill and give it a second life. The Gilbert facility reuses about 90 percent of the waste that it receives, Ms. Simpson said.
The presentation, council packet and a video of the meeting can be viewed on the town’s website at www.queencreek.org.
The IGA enables Queen Creek residents to drop off up to 70 pounds of hazardous household waste such as usable paint, tires, batteries, computer e-waste and scrap metal for free to the Gilbert HHW facility at 2224 E. Queen Creek Road, at Greenfield Road.
The service is considered part of the resident’s monthly trash rate, according to Ms. Simpson’s presentation.
To participate, residents who use the town’s waste management services must obtain a voucher, which is available on the town’s website or from the front counter at the Municipal Services Building, 22358 S. Ellsworth Road.
Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 16, residents used 223 vouchers. The average weight of household hazardous weight per voucher was 53.74 pounds, according to Ms. Simpson’s presentation. The total weight of waste diverted from the landfill was 11,986 pounds, or 5.99 tons.
The town of Queen Creek will be charged $75 per vehicle, one voucher per vehicle. It had been charged a reduced rate of $65 per voucher due to the commodity resale rate of some of the disposed materials; however, the commodity market on those items is low and so the town of Gilbert will now charge Queen Creek the standard disposal rate of $75 on all items, according to the staff report in the council packet.
To not exceed the maximum $25,000 that could be charged in a year, no more than 333 vouchers could be issued in a year, according to Ms. Simpson’s presentation. That breaks down to 27 vouchers per month.
The alternative would be to cancel the voucher program and direct residents to dispose of their items at various locations, most in the Phoenix area, rather than at one site, according to the staff report.
Councilman Brown said he was concerned about the amount per pound the town was paying for the service.
“The program per pound is expensive and yet I want to encourage recycling,” Councilman Brown said. “I’ve chased down recycling for my own home, it’s pretty important to me, but from the town’s perspective, it’s really expensive.”
He said even if people brought in a maximum load of 70 pounds, the town would be paying more than $1 per pound for the waste. The amount increases per pound when a person brings in less than a maximum load, he said.
He asked the town to look at less expensive alternatives, perhaps aggregate some commodities in town and then have someone take it all to Gilbert, he said. He said he wanted more research on the matter.
Councilwoman Wheatley said the town has discussed storage facilities for household hazardous waste, but said it could be a huge safety concern.
Paint, if it comes in as a liquid, is considered hazardous household waste, Ms. Simpson said. Operating its own recycling facility would require the town to train its staff members and have a process to test the materials in place, something Gilbert already has done, she said.
Councilwoman Wheatley said she wished two residents would go together and use the same voucher. She also suggested a minimum load weight because most individually aren’t meeting the maximum.
She said she hesitated to add restrictions that might discourage people from recycling. She did not want to see the hazardous household materials be poured down a drain, she said.
Town Manager John Kross suggested having staff members research the cost to staff and operate a hazardous waste facility in Queen Creek.
Councilman Brown acknowledged the cost of operating such a facility could be prohibitive, but said he did not think he could support the IGA amendment when there were other alternatives out there, even if people had to drive farther to dispose of the hazardous household waste.
Councilman Benning said he has seen vehicles hauling post-consumer waste traveling in a direction away from the waste transfer stations, leaving him to hope the waste is not being dumped in the San Tan Mountains. “If we can divert some of that from ending up in the field in our community. We work really hard to make our community exceptional and different and beautiful, and it would be a shame for some people to think it’s just a shortcut to dump a 5-gallon paint in a wash,” he said.
He said he agreed with Councilman Brown that the town should not be funding