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Mobile depots help Nova Scotia residents recycle hazardous waste

Cars lined up to drop off Household Hazardous Waste with GFL employees and a trailer in the background and bins to contain the different types of waste in the foreground.
GFL employees receiving Household Hazardous Waste from local residents at a mobile event

Thanks to the use of mobile collection depots, GFL’s Dartmouth, Nova Scotia team has diverted over 275,000 liters of hazardous household waste (HHW) from landfills in 2022.

“On average we divert 15,000 liters of hazardous waste from landfills per mobile event,” said Savannah Hatheway, project coordinator, Special Waste. “We covered a span of about 200 kilometers from Halifax.”

The team coordinated HHW collection events in 15 communities last year including Halifax, Dartmouth, St. Margaret’s Bay, Beaver Bank, Musquodoboit and Sheet Harbour.

Residents dropped off unwanted HHW at conveniently located depots including schools, recreation centers and bus transit terminals. Depots were open on Saturdays from April to October 2022, rain or shine.

An average of 350 cars dropped off waste at each event, with the smaller depots having around 100 vehicles come through and the largest depot exceeding 800.

“It's all about ease,” Hatheway added. “If we bring the depot to the people, they don't have a reason to dump illegally and put potentially harmful chemicals into landfills.”

Materials collected at the depots included common household products such as paint, varnishes, wood treatment products, oil, glycol, gasoline, aerosols, propane tanks, batteries (including car batteries), cleaning products, pool chemicals, insecticides, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, and CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs and lamps.

Safe and proper disposal of HHW and other hazardous materials is critical to keeping them out of landfills and preserving the environment.

“We're so reliant on our water courses and groundwater for the health of plant and animals and agriculture, it's just so important to make sure these hazardous wastes are disposed of properly and made inert so they're not contaminating those very, very important pathways to our way of life,” Hatheway said.

As part of the disposal process, Savannah oversees the sorting of waste on site according to Canada’s Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations. Some types of waste can be recycled in Nova Scotia, such as batteries, propane tanks, CFL bulbs and lamps, and oil- and glycol-contaminated plastics.

Fire extinguishers are emptied and the non-hazardous powder they contain is sent to GFL’s Stoney Creek Regional Facility in Ontario and the metal is recycled through a municipal program.

The majority of pesticides are sent for incineration, but many are now environmentally friendly and can either be sent to the landfill at Stoney Creek as non-hazardous solids or diluted in the wastewater from the oil treatment process at GFL’s Sussex, New Brunswick, facility prior to treatment offsite.

Other waste is sorted into acids, bases, oxidizers and flammable liquids which are packed into 55-gallon steel drums, then shipped to GFL’s processing facility in Sussex where similar materials are consolidated. Some items are sent to third party facilities for processing, but used oil, for example, is recycled by GFL to be sold as an industrial fuel or used as fuel at the Sussex facility.

Paints are sent to the Nova Scotia branch of a Canada-wide paint recycling program, where good-quality waste paint is processed, blended, packaged and sold to consumers and poor-quality waste paint can be used as an additive in various concrete manufacturing processes.

It’s clear that the Dartmouth team’s work is appreciated locally.

“We receive a lot of positive feedback from the communities we serve,” Hatheway said. “We've had some of the city councilors come out to our events and they're so excited about what we're doing. They're interested in how they’re being run, what our setup is like and how we handle the waste. They get a better idea of what they’re lobbying for and why it's important.”

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