Gary residents safely dispose of hazardous waste – Chicago Tribune

Tony Lewis of Gary popped open his trunk Saturday revealing bottles of household chemicals and old cans of paint as workers quickly removed the items for proper disposal.

“I’m just doing my part,” Lewis said.

Lewis was among a steady stream of Gary residents who participated in the city’s hazardous waste collection day. Residents are able to bring on hazardous items including household chemicals, paint, gasoline, oil, antifreeze and electronics.

They may also exchange older gas cans for new environmentally safe cans and have paper shredded, pick up recycling bins and purchase rain barrels complete with spigot and stand for watering plants.

“I have always been a firm believer in global warming and saving the environment. I try to recycle everything I can. I just believe in saving the environment,” Lewis said.

Carlos Reyes, operations manager for Tradebe Environmental Services of East Chicago, was among the entities contracted to handle the waste. Workers and volunteers poured each hazardous chemical into its own dedicated 55-gallon drum — one for gasoline, one for oils and one for glycols.

After the materials are collected, they are sent back to the East Chicago facility where they are processed and properly recycled or safely disposed of, he said.

Hank Dunham of Gary came with a carload of old paint. Workers can process acrylic paint, but not latex. Dunham learned how to properly dispose of his old latex paint at home, either by opening the cans with little in them and letting them dry or adding cat litter to the fuller cans until it is absorbed and dried. Once latex pain is dry, it can be sent to a landfill. He even swapped out an old gas can for a newer vapor reducing model.

“I just had some of that stuff to get rid of so I took advantage today,” Dunham said. There was no cost to residents to participate in the event.

Delores Brown, with Gary’s office of sustainability and environmental management, said the collection day has been happening for approximately 25 years.

“We’re excited to serve our citizens,” Brown said. “This is something we look forward to every year.”

Residents come out in droves to participate and bring in their hazardous items for recycling. Brown said gearing up for the annual event, the largest of its kind put on by the city, gets her excited. She was encouraged by this year’s turnout.

“We want to make sure people dispose of their hazardous waste products properly,” Brown said.

Hazardous waste that is incorrectly disposed of can ultimately make its way into the water supply, and given the city’s proximity to Lake Michigan, into the lake, she said. Polluted water could have a negative impact on health. The city monitors the lake and frequently posts reports on Lake Michigan’s water quality

“We need clean water,” Brown said. “Our mission is making sure everyone is as healthy as possible.”

Carrie Napoleon is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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