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June 9 – Problem Trash Disposal Day

Each year we produce an increased amount of solid waste, some of which is poisonous, dangerous, or creates bulky disposal problems. In acknowledgement of our garbage dilemma, Tuolumne County Master Gardeners—along with Cal Sierra Disposal, MRL Industries, Timbron International, Tuolumne County Solid Waste and the Sonora Sunrise Rotary Club—are offering you multiple ways to dispose of your problem trash on Saturday, June 9.

Master Gardeners will collect #6 Styrofoam* (also known as expanded polystyrene foam—EPS) from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the MRL parking lot at 19500 Nugget Blvd. in Sonora. On the same day, Tuolumne County Solid Waste is hosting a Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Day from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (reservations required). The Sonora Sunrise Rotary Club is collecting e-waste (all your old cell phones, computers, monitors, etc.) at the Fairgrounds. So why not create your own household clean-up day on Saturday, June 9? Get rid of your old electronics, your unused household chemicals and burned out fluorescent bulbs, and that bulky, what-do-I-do-with-this Styrofoam from your new computer, all at the same time.

Mark your calendars for S.O.S. Problem Trash Day on June 9. S.O.S. stands for Save Our Styrofoam, a pilot project designed to gather polystyrene from private citizens as well as the business community.

Styrofoam is a disposal headache. If you´ve ever tried stuffing the polystyrene packing from your latest electronic purchase into a garbage can, you´ve experienced the problem. Extremely bulky, yet lightweight, it takes up lots of space in the waste stream (and in landfills), but its removal doesn´t add much value to what is known asdiversion numbers.”

In 1989, California Assembly Bill 939, known as the Integrated Waste Management Act, was passed because of the increase in waste stream and the decrease in landfill capacity. AB 939 established a hierarchy of approaches to our waste stream generation—source reduction, recycling and composting, and environmentally safe transformation and disposal. It also mandated a reduction (or diversion) of waste being disposed: jurisdictions were required to meet diversion goals of 25% by 1995 and 50% by the year 2000.

However, the 25% and 50% goals are based on weight. So, for example,green waste”—lawn and garden clippings and prunings, heavy from a high water content—is targeted for removal from the waste collection system. Styrofoam is ignored because its removal doesn´t add much to the 50%-by-weight waste stream diversion goal.

Master Gardeners are asking you to begin saving your polystyrene for collection day. Save clean white packaging foam (typically used to pack computers, TVs, appliances, furniture, wine) and rigid white foam insulation (typically used around building foundations). Remove any tape, stickers, labels, paint or cardboard. Please note that neither bubble wrap and packing peanuts nor used food containers can be accepted. (Pac N Copy in the Junction Shopping Center will accept your packing peanuts). On June 9th you can deliver your accumulated polystyrene to MRL Industries, at Camage and Nugget Roads, Sonora, between 9 AM and 4 PM. A Master Gardener volunteer will be there to help unload your car.

Timbron International, an extrusion manufacturer in Stockton, is eager to acquire all the polystyrene they can. They´re committed to helping recycle polystyrene locally to be used to make extruded moldings for the construction industry. Their products are available for purchase at local home centers, and are both recycled and recyclable.

They have made a commitment to send a truck to pick up the polystyrene foam collected in Tuolumne County. Cal Sierra Disposal is donating a large enclosed container to collect the Styrofoam and they are providing baling services for the collected material.

In addition to recycling polystyrene on S.O.S. Day, June 9, here are some other suggestions for ways to dispose of problem household materials.

Sonora residents can call the Tuolumne County Solid Waste Division at 1-800-811-2435 to make an appointment to dispose of unused gasoline, oven cleaner, pesticides, old paint and other chemicals. For more information on what to bring go to www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov and click on Tuolumne County´s 2007 Household Hazardous Waste Drop Off Events Schedule at the bottom of the page. Or see the ad in the Union Democrat.

Electronics can be taken to the Mother Lode Fairgrounds on June 9. Sonora Sunrise Rotary club will collect, at no cost to you, old computers, TVs, VCRs, DVD players, toner cartridges, and AV equipment. In addition to keeping heavy metals (lead, cadmium, etc.) out of the landfill, you can feel good about the donation to a good cause. Proceeds from the recycled products will benefit the Teen Suicide Prevention and Awareness Program. For more information see the Weekender section of the Union Democrat.

To begin and end this column with polystyrene foam, when you buy coffee, have them fill your mug from home. According to the www.earthday.net website, each year Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 (that´s 25 BILLION) Styrofoam cups. 500 years from now that Styrofoam cup you used will still be sitting in a landfill.

Let´s keep all of this material out of the landfill. Recycle it on June 9. For more information call the Master Gardener office at 533-5696.

*Trademark of Dow Chemical Company.

Rebecca Miller-Cripps is the Master Gardener Coordinator for Tuolumne County.