Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Shutters Hazardous Waste Facility, Opts for Home Pickup
By Jason Islas
September 11, 2013 – Citing the cost of keeping the facility open, Santa Monica shuttered its Household Hazardous Waste Management Center this weekend, opting instead for a door-to-door pickup program.
City officials hope that Santa Monica's new Home Collection Program, run by Waste Management, Inc., will be a convenient alternative to the old program which required residents to load potentially hazardous materials into their cars and cart them down to the Center.
While the program switch was conceived as a way to save the City money during hard times, it has other perks, too, officials said.
“People don't have to get into their car,” said James Conway, senior sustainability analyst for the City. That, he said, is important given Santa Monica's emphasis on reducing vehicle trips in the bayside town.
However, the transition to the new program was largely about cutting costs.
Originally, the Household Hazardous Waste Management Center was open four days a week and would handle about 60 to 70 loads on a busy day, Conway said.
Over time, hours were cut and a larger work crew would take in waste about once a week. That translated into about 120 to 160 loads of household waste each week.
Finally, the City cut back the Center's hours to once a month, Conway said, and staff would process about 200 loads on the days it operated.
“Even to operate the facility one day a month, it was still expensive,” he said.
So, in August 2011, the City, working with Waste Management, Inc. -- the contractor that handles the City's other trash and recycling pickup services -- launched a pilot program.
The City pays Waste Management an annual fee so residents can put in an unlimited number of a pickup request for paints, pesticides, automotive products and other things that are dangerous to throw in landfills.
“Home Collection is safe, convenient, and easy to use,” City officials said, “and it allows you to continue properly disposing of household hazardous wastes whenever it is convenient for you - and without needing a car.”
The new program, Conway said, saves the City roughly $100,000 a year and customers, overall, are satisfied.
“The people who use the program are very satisfied,” he said, adding that Waste Management has an excellent safety record.
With the new program, “people are waiting a little bit longer before calling for the service,” he said.
Once a customer makes a call, it takes about two weeks for Waste Management to schedule a pickup time. And the company sends the customer a kit to prep the waste.
On the day of the pickup, Waste Management crews usually come by between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. and the customer doesn't have to be home, Conway said.
Not everyone has taken a shine to the new program.
“Some people just don't want people coming on their property,” Conway said. “Some people who live in apartment buildings don't feel comfortable leaving the package out” for the pickup.
Some would just rather deliver the waste themselves. For those types, the County operates six such collection centers. The nearest one to Santa Monica is the UCLA Safe Center.
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