The City of Kamloops is reminding residents about the dangers of improper disposal of hazardous waste.
The message comes on the heels of similar concerns issued by Thompson-Nicola Regional District and Recycle BC earlier this month over the rising number of explosive and hazardous materials residents are placing in the province’s residential packaging and paper recycling bins. B.C.’s major recycling collectors and processors have seen seven fires in 2019, with several of them having endangered lives and forced the temporary closure of facilities.
Earlier this month, for example, a resident dropped 58 rounds of live ammunition into their recycling, while Recycle BC audits of materials in 2019 found two-thirds of container loads had hazardous materials present, a 47 per cent increase over the last five years. Hazardous materials include butane and propane canisters, batteries (especially lithium-ion batteries), compressed gases, ammunition, knives, sharps and bear spray.
In Kamloops, garbage and recycling collectors and processors have also witnessed an increase in the improper disposal of explosive and hazardous materials.
“While city staff and landfill contractor personnel take every reasonable step to prevent the inadvertent landfilling of hazardous waste, we are limited in our efforts by what we are readily able to observe when screening loads of waste being brought to our landfills,” said Allan Michener, the city’s environmental services supervisor. “We ask that our customers understand the risks associated with these hazardous materials and take steps to dispose of these potentially dangerous items appropriately.”
Some hazardous materials, such as propane tanks, can be recycled at city landfills. Others, such as used motor oil, need to be taken to an approved third-party facility. When in doubt, residents are asked to talk to landfill staff. Residents can also download the free Waste Wise App or use the Waste Wizard on the city’s website (kamloops.ca) to learn where to take hazardous waste.
Additionally, in an effort to help residents recycle and dispose of hazardous materials safely, the city hosts an annual Household Hazardous Waste Day event, usually in the late spring, when residents can bring hazardous materials to the Mission Flats landfill.
Why is there such a risk of fire or explosion?
The risk of fire or explosion is especially high for garbage/recycling trucks, landfills and recycling facilities because they contain significant amounts of paper and other flammable materials. The combination of easily flammable material, the type of machinery used, air and large amounts of material in piles where sparks can smoulder undetected for lengthy periods of time makes the presence of hazardous material especially dangerous.
Recycle BC provides the following tips to help keep workers, facilities and the environment safe from non-acceptable hazardous materials:
1. Identify the hazardous materials. When they are incorrectly disposed of, a number of materials can be a health risk, cause personal injury or even be fatal to collectors and processors. Hazardous materials can also cause destruction to recycling facilities and landfills. The city’s residential garbage and recycling collection services do not allow the following:
• lithium-ion and household batteries
• single-use propane and butane canisters
• flammable liquids
• helium tanks
• bear spray
2. Read warning labels. Hazardous materials should be kept out of garbage and recycling bins, as well as the waste stream. For example, when household batteries end up in landfills, they can leak toxic mercury and lead, which contaminate the soil and groundwater. Any container that still contains even small amounts of corrosive, toxic, flammable, or reactive components can cause major problems at landfill and recycling facilities. These containers are often labelled with hazard text/symbols such as CAUTION, WARNING, CORROSIVE, EXPLOSIVE, FLAMMABLE, POISONOUS or TOXIC. These materials and containers should never be placed in residential recycling bins and such containers should be tossed in the garbage bin only if the containers are completely empty.
3. To find a disposal location for hazardous waste materials, download the Waste Wise Kamloops app, use the online Waste Wizard at Kamloops.ca/Recycling or call the Recycle BC Hotline at 1-800-667-4321.