“If you think about the sheer volume of items that we just waste or throw away, it’s staggering, ” said Amanda Roa, environmental compliance engineer for Delta Diablo Sanitation District (DDSD). “And some of those items can still be used.”
Re-used, to be exact, which was the impetus behind Roa’s creation of the re-use program last year at the DDSD facility in Antioch. Affectionately known around the office as the Recycling Nazi, Roa believes there’s a place and a purpose for everything – including hazardous products.
“Amanda has really spearheaded this program and gotten it off the ground,” said Angela Lowrey, public information manager for DDSD. “She is very passionate about it – and recycling in general. She is the perfect spokesperson.”
And thanks to a grant by the California Integrated Waste Management Board, Roa’s passion has found a voice. The re-use room – a no-frills building lined with shelves of paint, cleaning products and the odd assortment of pool cleaners and carpet fresheners – was paid for as part of a $300,000 grant for expansion projects at the district.
Last year the re-use program received – and eventually gave away – nearly 28,000 pounds of articles including paint, household cleaning products and bags of fertilizer. Some of the items were brand new while others were half empty, but all were offered free of charge to residents willing to drive to the Antioch location and pop the trunk.
“We have seen all kinds of amazing things,” laughed Roa. “We had people drive up with bulk mercury they found in their garages, maybe from their parent’s lab jobs, and I’ve seen people come with specimens in jars of formaldehyde. I’ve seen a lot of interesting items.”
But for every over-the-top donation, there are the smaller gestures such as the elderly couple that drove to the district facility to deliver a single baggie full of batteries. Or the family that arrived at the plant to dispose of e-waste products and learned about the re-use room.
And while the variety of acceptable items is wide, things such as banned pesticides and personal care products are not allowed. “Well, can’t take things like a half stick of deodorant or a pesticide that has been banned in California,” said Roa. “But we’ll take just about everything else.”
But when residents do show up with such items, Lowrey sees it as an occasion to teach. “If someone has taken the time to come out here and we can’t re-use it, we’ll thank them for coming out, accept the item and then recycle or dispose of it as we need to,” said Lowrey. “And then it becomes a gentle education; an opportunity to show what can be used and recycled – and what can’t.”
And so far, the lessons are sticking. DDSD has seen a steady increase in customers to the re-use room, including cities that have learned of the free program and come in to stock up on paint to cover graffiti and tagging. “When you’re covering graffiti, you don’t care what color the paint is,” said Lowrey. “And providing (the paint) is a public service at no cost to the community.
“Those kinds of things are what we strive to do: showing people that every little thing they do has an impact; that they can be part of the solution to pollution in East County. Everyone wants to live in a safe community, and this is just one way we can help.”
The Delta Diablo Sanitary District is located at 2550 Pittsburg-Antioch Highway in Pittsburg, across the street from the Goodwill Store. For a list of acceptable re-use items and for hours of operation, call 925-756-1990 or visit www.ddsd.org.