Wastemobile makes hazardous waste disposal easy

When the permanent hazardous waste facilities weren’t enough to deal with all of King County’s hazardous waste disposal demands, the Wastemobile was created.

“We didn’t know how big the demand was; we needed a better plan of doing it,” said Henry Draper who was the original project manager of the Local Hazardous Management Program’s Household Hazardous Wastemobile. “That was the genesis of the Wastemobile.”

Now, celebrating its 25th anniversary, two Wastemobiles serve rural and suburban areas of King County, accepting residential and small business hazardous waste materials.

The Wastemobile is dedicated to recycling and the beneficial reuse and recovery of household hazardous waste, and that starts with being able to determine whether a waste product is hazardous.

“One of the main challenges the Wastemobile program hopes to overcome is educating residents on what constitutes hazardous waste,” said Julie Mitchell, who now manages the Wastemobile program.

According to Mitchell, hazardous waste can be identified if a product has the word caution, warning, poison or danger on the label. Some examples of everyday household hazardous waste are fluorescent lights, batteries, gasoline and oil-based paint.

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According to Julie Mitchell, who now manages the Wastemobile program, hazardous waste can be identified if a product has the word caution, warning, poison or danger on the label. Some examples of everyday household hazardous waste are fluorescent lights, batteries, gasoline and oil-based paint.

Since its start, the Wastemobile program has had a steady stream of waste collection. Last year the wastemobiles brought in 520 tons of waste, although Mitchell cautions that weight isn’t the best way to calculate the amount of hazardous waste collected because a fluorescent light weighs less than a gallon of paint. The better way to measure the Wastemobile’s success is by the number of customers. Last year, 16,235 household were served and 94 small businesses.

This year’s goal for the wastemobile is to see a 5 percent increase in customer numbers and an 8 percent increase in small business customers.

Mitchell said the program is making more of a concerted effort to reach out to communities within King County who may not be aware of how to dispose of their household hazardous waste, such as new arrivals from other countries.

The County has two Wastemobiles. One travels from location to location (called the roving Wastemobile), and the other resides in Auburn at The Outlet Collection Seattle (formerly Auburn Super Mall).

The roving Wastemobile’s schedule is set yearly and is based off of the biggest needs. This is determined by of how far a fixed facility is from a community. According to Mitchell, if a fixed facility is more than eight miles away from a resident, they’re far less likely to bring it to a hazardous waste facility.

When disposing of their hazardous waste at a household disposal location, residents do not have to pay a fee, since it’s already included in their utility charges.

“Because these fees are built in, you’re in, you’re out and you leave with a clear conscience,” Mitchell said.

Check out the Wastemobile schedule here.