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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Drive-Thru Haz Mat Dump

UCSB Center Makes It Easy to Clean House
By Silvia Uribe

As any writer would be able to tell you, less is more. That's why most of us keep editing our columns to death, and then some. But writing is not the only activity the aphorism applies to. Getting rid of the things that we don't really need at home is usually a headache, even for those who (unlike me) are very well organized. The Community Hazardous Waste Collection Center located at UCSB can take reduce some of the suffering.

We humans tend to discard everything from paint cans to electronics into the landfill, collectively creating piles and piles of dangerous wastes. Sometimes, even when we think we're disposing of hazardous materials adequately, we are actually contaminating our environment.

Prescribed medications are a good example of what I'm talking about. I clearly remember my grandma and my mom, during my childhood, dropping the old or unused pills down the toilet as they cleaned out the medicine cabinet. I also remember what they told me time and again: "These pills could be very dangerous to people's health. We need to do this so no one gets hurt." Good point! Their intention was great, and they were right in their assessment of the potential danger, but by flushing them, they did precisely the opposite.

Now we have data that proves that this practice harms our environment, but many still follow their very old-fashioned, unsafe practices to dispose of their medications. Why? Because they don't know of an easy way to get rid of them. The only other option they think they have is to accumulate these at home with the additional tremendous risk that someone in the family-possibly a teenager--will take them, possibly with lethal consequences. We should not risk it!

I'd say that pharmacies should be able to provide this service in an easily accessible and controlled way. Since this is not an option at the moment, there's another way. Among other things, the Community Hazardous Waste Collection Center receives old and unused medications--to be safely incinerated, thereby solving our household problem and taking good care of the environment.

This facility also receives other hazardous materials that are flammable, corrosive, or poisonous-a long list that includes adhesives, aerosols, anti-freeze, asbestos, batteries, fluorescent bulbs, mercury, motor oil, paint, drain openers, household cleaners, pesticides, pool chemicals, roof tar, solvents, stains, and used motor oil.

The Waste Collection Center is so well organized that it is basically like a drive-in. You fill out a little form. You hand the workers your medications. If you have items to dispose of in the trunk of your car, you just open it. They will help you get your materials out, and you'll be on your way. That's it! It is that fast and that efficient!

It is lucky for those of us living in Goleta to have this great service right in our backyard, but it is important to know that all Santa Barbara residents are welcome to take advantage of it.

The Community Hazardous Waste Collection Center is located at University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), Mesa Road, Building 565, Goleta, CA 93106, (805) 882-3602. It is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. 3 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. 3 p.m.

If you have additional questions regarding specific materials, don't hesitate to call the Center. The person who answers the phone has all the answers you might need, and provides outstanding customer service.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at the

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