I find people for a living.

It’s part of my investigative reporter gig at 9NEWS. So, imagine my surprise when it took an exceptionally long time for me to find how to recycle a large amount of household hazardous waste.

Here’s my situation: I got saddled with two large tubs of household chemicals after recently buying a house in Aurora and discovering them covered under a tarp in the backyard.

Missing that before closing is on me, but it was too late to worry about that. I had to find a way to recycle bottles of who-knows-what from the previous owner.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been doing this search on the phone. Maybe if I were in front of the computer, it would’ve been easier.

But fact is, I spent a ton of time calling around and finally getting to the right people.

Here’s what I learned: First of all, you should not toss your household hazardous waste in the trash.

“It’s always about water quality,” Mary Dawson, environmental specialist with the City of Aurora, said. “We really don’t want your household chemicals in the trash. It could present a water quality problem that leaks out onto our streets, when it rains or the run off from snow, it runs off into our storm drains which are connected to our nearest body of water, so that affects our water quality.”

Chemicals poured into the toilet or the kitchen sink end up at the water treatment plant and that disrupts the delicate chemical balance, Dawson said.

To make this even more complicated or fun, depending on how you look at it, some of the household products can be poured down the drain or toilet.

I must admit, during my three-week saga of trying to dispose of my buckets, I was tempted to give up.
Apparently I’m not the only one.

Caren Johannes, an environmental protection specialist at CDPHE, answers calls from people looking for information on how to recycle.

I asked Johannes if she thought that some people just give up and don’t recycle.

“Unfortunately I think they do,” she said. “I’ve heard from a number of people who called me and talked to me [saying], ‘I have no idea, I don’t know which way to turn,’ and they’re frustrated. I would love for them to be able to appropriately dispose of their waste and not feel badly about it, know that they’re doing it the right way.”
Every municipality is responsible for its own recycling. The extent of the programs depends on funding, Johannes said.

For example, Aurora residents can drop off their recyclables for free on the second Saturday in September.

But I couldn’t keep the tubs in my back yard, so if I wanted to recycle immediately, I’d need to contact Waste Management who the city of Aurora contracts with.

The company picks up two 13 gallon bags for $40 per year.

I wondered why I could only recycle two bags-worth, why there wasn’t another drop off option and in general, how does this work in other cities?

Aurora pays $112 of its own dollars for every bag I recycle for $20. That’s why there is a limit as to how many bags a citizen can have picked up.

Dawson said resources also dictate the recycling roundup once-a-year schedule.

Denver allows citizens one $15 dollar pick up per year.

Westminster, doesn’t charge at all.

El Paso County has a drop off site with many scheduling options and you can even walk away with a free usable household cleaner.

My personal recycling journey took three weeks. I learned emailing Waste Management for a pickup didn’t work for me. I had to call and schedule an appointment.

Once I did that, my bags didn’t arrive on time, so I had to move my first pick up.

When I finally packed my bags, I just tossed the items inside – amateur move. The bottles leaked, making them unacceptable for pickup.

But the next day pickup was canceled by the company last minute anyway, so I was in the clear. I had to order a new set of bags, make sure all the bottles were closed and carefully placed in my bags.

After all this, my inherited waste was properly disposed of.

The previous owners also had left me some paint. I couldn’t fit them into my full bags, so I called around and found a paint store that recycled it for me.

The Home Depot and Lowe's don't accept paint for recycling.

Additional resources:

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: http://1.usa.gov/1TOeQVt

Helpline: 303-692-3320

Email: Comments.hmwmd@state.co.us

Household hazardous waste collection programs: http://1.usa.gov/23wgcH7

Household Chemical roundup events: http://bit.ly/1U6Ruwg

A to Z recycle guide: http://bit.ly/1QUwdPY

Eco-friendly cleaning recipes: http://bit.ly/1SVj37D

Waste Management Hazardous-Waste Disposal: http://wmatyourdoor.com/ or 1-800-449-7587

Shred-a-thon 2016 coming in May: http://on9news.tv/23wfJ7R