When Ken Palermo bought a house in Columbia, he wasn’t expecting the basement to be cluttered with items from the previous owner that he couldn’t throw away. “It was mostly paint, and some concrete,” he said. “You can’t toss it in the trash.”
For many new homeowners, inheriting old paint or other hazardous chemicals can be a nuisance because state and federal law prohibits certain items from going to landfills, where they risk polluting the environment. Because of that, homeowners like Palermo can often find themselves playing steward to a growing pile of hazardous waste that’s difficult to dispose of — things like varnish, motor oil and, yes, paint.
But state officials want residents to know that there are ways to get rid of unwanted gifts from past homeowners. City, county and state agencies have long provided collection services and events for household hazardous waste, or other hard-to-recycle items like electronics or tires, but often with low turnout.
Now, some of the state’s recycling districts are ramping up efforts through online and radio advertising to spread awareness of these options to get more residents to participate. The efforts appear to be working.
The Mid-Missouri Solid Waste Management District, which includes Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau and Osage counties, held its annual household hazardous waste, electronic and tire collection day in Columbia on Saturday. The event was so popular that, at one point, a line of cars stretched nearly half a mile long from the collection site behind Memorial Stadium.
By the end of the event, more than 700 cars had filed through an hour-long line to drop off anything from refrigerators to paint thinner, said the district’s manager, Lelande Rehard. The most abundant item dropped off this year? “Latex paint,” Rehard said.
Inheriting old paint when moving into a new home is very common, Rehard said. “A lot of it is folks whose parents passed away and they have to clean up the house,” he said. “We see a lot of it.”
Dan Peebler bought a house in Columbia five years ago and also found a basement full of unwanted paint that he brought to Saturday’s event. “I decided I was tired of looking at it,” he said. “I bet I dropped off 30 cans of paint.”
Same for Helen Smythe, who bought a house in Columbia last year. “Mostly it was just household chemicals and old paint,” she said. “It was whatever I found from previous owners.”
Exactly how much paint was collected at Saturday’s event won’t be tallied until July, Rehard said, but he expects it to be more than the 7,620 pounds of latex paint the district collected last year.
As for those who missed Saturday’s event, Rehard said not to worry. Columbia has a permanent drop-off center where residents can bring their paint and other hazardous waste every first and third Saturday of the month.