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Agent Pink in HazMobile haul

HAZ1 SmallThere is always some pretty interesting rubbish turning up at the Hastings and Napier transfer stations and recycling centres. However, a recent HazMobile hazardous waste weekend, with drop-off points in both Napier and Hastings, uncovered some particularly obscure items.

One of the most startling things to have been unloaded at the Napier event on Sunday, November 12, was two boxes of chemical sachets containing Agent Pink, said Napier City Council waste minimisation lead Rhett van Veldhuizen.

Agent Pink was one of the so-called “rainbow herbicides” used in the Vietnam War alongside the equally powerful Agent Orange. The chemical – more formally known as 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (or 2,4,5-T) – is notorious for having contributed to a number of cancers, birth defects, disease and disability among those that ingested the herbicide during, and a long time after, the conflict. The effects on the environment and the people of Vietnam are still apparent today.

“We are very grateful to have received such a dangerous and hazardous substance through the HazMobile event,” said Mr van Veldhuizen. “It’s much better that we take care of the effective disposal of something like Agent Pink, rather than have it languishing in someone’s garden shed.”

In Hastings, waste minimisation officer Angela Atkins said the team received many interesting items including a liquid mercury switch and lead arsenic.

“It’s important that we educate residents that although it might be tempting to tip chemicals down the drain, this can easily contaminate our fragile ecosystems or pollute the environment.”

In Hastings, 357 locals dropped off unwanted chemicals, while in Napier 324 people took advantage of the service. Several tonnes of paint, around 4500 litres of waste oil and unusable fuel, five 200 litre drums of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, approximately 200 empty gas bottles, thousands of batteries big and small, and litres of pool chemicals and acids were amongst the haul.

All of the chemicals and materials collected are disposed of correctly or recycled – for instance, oil and fuel can be reused as boiler fuel.

The waste minimisation team did express concerns at the way some people were storing their chemicals.

“Many of the chemicals we collected arrived in unlabelled old household fizzy drink bottles. This is a challenge for our team to handle, even though they are experts, but more importantly it’s a very risky method of storing chemicals. Children have died after drinking from a soft drink bottle filled with chemicals.

“We encourage the community to keep chemicals locked away and in their original bottles or containers so there can be no mistaking the contents,” said Mr van Veldhuizen

Napier City and Hastings District Councils advise that if people do need to have hazardous materials at home, they should make sure they were always stored safely and securely:

  • Keep hazardous materials dry and away from heat or flames;
  • Always keep things in their original container so the contents are clearly labelled;
  • If the container is leaking and you have to use another, label it correctly;
  • Keep lids tightly closed;
  • Always keep hazardous materials out of the reach of children - for example in a locked cupboard.

There are services available year round for the disposal of hazardous material, such as paint which can be recycled at Resene and Mitre 10 stores, and waste oil which can be disposed of at the Council Transfer Stations.

HazMobile events have been running for 10 years. For more information on the safe storage and disposal of hazardous waste, contact your Council.

22 November 2017

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