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Rounding Up Stray Toxics

When Orange County launched its pilot “toxic roundup” program earlier this year to encourage residents to bring in their small amounts of toxic wastes instead of illegally dumping them in county landfills, we suggested that the program be run on a permanent basis, or at least until the costs of private pickup are within reason.

The success of the two roundup days held thus far persuades us even more of the need for that approach. It should persuade the county board of supervisors, too.

The second toxic roundup, held two weeks ago in Anaheim, was an even greater success than the first one in April in Huntington Beach. In the first roundup 582 cars drove in with chemical wastes that filled 27055-gallon drums, which the county transported to a treatment plant in Santa Barbara.

The latest roundup attracted about 700 cars that brought in more than twice the amount of waste materials that filled 569 drums with leftover hazardous household materials like paint, cleaners and pesticides. Some arsenic, cyanide and even outlawed DDT were also collected.

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Many people simply don’t stop to think that such items are toxic and that disposing of them in the regular trash, down the drain or at county landfills not only is against the law but also poses environmental dangers. But they have no other way to dispose of the hazardous household waste.

That’s why the supervisors launched the roundup programs. And that’s why the collections should be made permanent on a countywide basis, with central drop-off points that would encourage proper disposal.

In controlling the large volumes of hazardous-waste materials produced by industry, the emphasis is on more on-site treatment and on reducing the amount of wastes produced as byproducts in the first place.

Those approaches, however, don’t work for residents. What’s needed for them are other innovative means such as placing special containers at existing county dumps so that hazardous wastes can be collected on a regular basis, and maybe even occasional door-to-door pickups--as some cities now do for heavy trash items.

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Whatever the specific plan, it’s time that the regular collection of hazardous household wastes became a permanent part of the county’s trash-disposal system.


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