Tag Archives: hazardous waste

Gainesville’s recycling questions answered

11 Jun
Brynn Huzzen have grew up in Gainesville, Fla. and is now a journalism major at the University of Florida. She has a strong passion for helping animals and the environment and hopes to be able to use the  skills she is learning at UF to later protect the world we live in. The research she did for this article really opened her eyes to the impact of waste on the environment and how important it is to recycle. I truly believe that if everyone in Florida participated more in environmentally friendly

Brynn Huzzen  grew up in Gainesville, Fla. and is now a journalism major at the University of Florida. She has a strong passion for helping animals and the environment and hopes to be able to use the
skills she is learning at UF to later protect the world in which we live. The research she did for this article really opened her eyes to the impact of waste on the environment and how important it is to recycle.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Brynn Huzzen

While researching the recycling and hazardous waste disposal facilities in Gainesville, I realized how much information they have that the majority of people living in Gainesville do not know.  I asked many people to contribute questions about local recycling or waste disposal and did my best to find answers to them, with the help of Steve Joplin, solid waste manager for The City of Gainesville.  Below, he answers all of your submitted recycling answers.

Why is it that there are some apartment complexes in Gainesville that do not recycle?

“There should not be any apartment complexes in Gainesville that don’t recycle. All multi-family units are required to provide convenient and accessible recycling of all designated recyclables (everything recycled in the residential program). Our inspectors should be checking each apartment complex at least once a year to make sure they’re in compliance with the mandatory recycling ordinance. If [residents] know of any apartment complexes that aren’t offering recycling to their tenants, we would like to have the names or addresses of those places.”

 Why is the recycling in apartment complexes not regulated better? For example, residents have seen maintenance men dumping recyclables into the dumpster.

“If residents have seen maintenance men dumping recyclables into garbage dumpsters, that probably means the apartment complex isn’t providing enough recycling containers to handle the amount of recycling being generated there. We have the authority by ordinance to require the complex to provide additional recycling containers if we can document that what they currently have is insufficient. We frequently need help from the residents to deal with this issue since we either need a witness who saw maintenance throwing away recyclables, or we need to have one of our staff witness it. If an apartment resident will alert us to this activity we can usually do something about it, and we can keep the source of the information anonymous.”

 Does it matter if glass or canned recycling is rinsed before it is put in the bin?

“Yes, it does matter if glass and cans are rinsed.  All recyclable materials should be clean for processing.  Recyclable materials that are not clean may be considered contaminated and therefore be thrown away.”

 What sorts of green initiatives/recycling programs are local businesses implementing?

“All businesses in Gainesville for whom designated recyclable materials make up 15 percent or more of their waste stream are required to recycle. Some businesses do the minimum amount needed to comply with the ordinance; others look for ways to recycle everything they can. For example, although Gainesville doesn’t currently require food scraps to be recycled, a number of businesses in town either have an arrangement with someone to collect and compost their food scraps, or they compost them themselves. We also have at least one paint & body shop that recycles its plastic automobile bumpers.”

 What kinds of plastics are recyclable and what can people do with the ones that are not recyclable?

 

“All plastics in the category of bottles, jars, jugs and tubs are recyclable in Gainesville.  Some types of plastics such as Solo cups and clear plastic clamshell containers are not recyclable in our system because it is not economically feasible due to the lack of markets for the material in the area.”

 Is it okay to recycle cardboard that is treated in plastic like for frozen food items?

“Yes, pasteboard from the frozen food section is recyclable in our system.”

 Where can I dispose of Styrofoam?

“During the holidays some stores will even take the formed Styrofoam because of the high mailing demand at those times of the year.  Publix will take their Styrofoam veggie trays to be reused.”

 What types of batteries need to be taken to a hazardous waste facility?

“Regular disposable household batteries are no longer hazardous and can be thrown away.  However, other batteries such as the NiCad or rechargeable batteries are hazardous and will need to be taken to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center, 5125 NE 63 Ave, 334-3440. Examples of batteries to be taken to the HHWCC are:  car, boat, lawnmower and lawn equipment batteries.  The smaller [hazardous] batteries are watch and hearing-aid batteries, along with all the household batteries that are rechargeable. Another hazardous material of interest is the fluorescent light bulb.  This type of light bulb has mercury in it and should be taken to the HHWCC. ”

*Note – Keep in mind that garbage and recycling service does not handle hazardous waste so therefore all hazardous waste must be taken to the HHWCC.”

 

If you have any questions, contact Steve Joplin, joplinsh@cityofgainesville.org, solid waste manager at The City of Gainesville.

Book review– Superfund: The Political Economy of Risk

9 Oct

51818097KBL._SY300_By: Rebecca Burton

 

Whenever someone reads the word “Superfund” in the news media, negative words that come to mind might be, “controversy, delay, outrage, cancer, mistrust,” and the list goes on. Superfund and the political and public battles that go along with it are prime meat for the press, especially when you tie in environmental and health risks and “big government.” Coming from a journalist, I can easily see how these types of stories spread like wildfire. But, John Hird’s suggestions for reform of what he calls an inherently inefficient law that was doomed from the onset, may easily make hazardous waste sites less dramatic and therefore less newsworthy.

Although the book did not focus entirely on the problem with the public’s perception of risk, he did mention it quite a bit and I found what he had to say very insightful. Instead of the usual risk communication books that only cover superficial explanations of why experts are always pitted as “against” the public, Hird put the entire problem in the context of the law itself.

Most generic risk communication books suggest problems such as “mistrust of institutions” are to blame for public outrage, and that greater transparency and honesty are the typical cookie-cutter solutions. Nothing is ever that simple. Since my thesis is focusing on evaluating the risk communication efforts of the EPA and the Department of Health to residents who live near the Koppers Superfund site in Gainesville, this book really put into context the history of the law and why it was flawed from the beginning. By understanding this, I can better understand why communication efforts are so tricky, and may not be the right solution to the bigger problem.

Hird begins by explaining how the public perceives chemical hazards. This is important because ultimately public perception of these problems, along with the pull of legislators, is what prompted the solution of the cleanup of abandoned hazardous waste sites such as the infamous Love Canal in New York. Ironically, public perception and fear is also part of the problem with Superfund’s inefficiency. Hird suggests there are more pressing and  concrete environmental and health concerns that we should be fearful of and that Superfund sites are not at the top of the list. Hird notes that Americans rate hazardous waste sites as the number one environmental problem (although this book and the study he cited are outdated by now), even when compared to global warming, deforestation and other problems with more “sound” science to back up the claims. The reasons for this fear of chemicals stemmed from many factors.

First, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring garnered national attention to the risks of pesticides. After that, national news agencies began devoting much more space to environmental stories focusing on health risks such as air pollution, water pollution and solid waste. This was a stark shift from earlier environmental concerns, which focused on themes of conservation, wilderness and stewardship.

Hazardous waste sites are a particular concern to the public since they are typically involuntary. Citizens didn’t choose to have a health risk—no matter how minute—near their home or children. The involuntariness is what makes the public angry, even though at most sites, the risk is no greater than chemicals and pollutants one might be exposed to naturally in their everyday lives.

While most of the science today regarding waste sites poses the risks as being minimal comparatively, Hird notes that the amount of uncertainty along with research agendas means the risks could be bigger than we think, or they could be minimal. Most research suggests the risks are overstated.

In addition to the public’s fear of hazardous waste sites, mistrust of the Environmental Protection Agency is another reason that American’s disagree on the risk of hazardous waste site. But the public’s mistrust alone is not enough to cause the spout of blame, conflict and inefficiency that Hird explains has plagued Superfund. Hird also explained that like a small puppy who knows it is in trouble, the EPA sometimes will sulk and hide even more from the public, and will never brag about the accomplishments it has made to Congress, furthering political polarization.

Despite the controversy, the book proposes that Superfund indeed has good intentions, but those intentions are not carried out in the right way. Hird organizes the book into three sections: assessing and managing risks, efficiency, equity and distributive politics, and explaining and reforming Superfund. In each, he proposes some of the problems with each and in the last section he gives some suggestions for reform and the current limitations on implementing them. I will summarize each section, highlighting some of the themes that resonated with me throughout the book and offer my critique on the solutions. Continue reading