Tips for safe spring cleanup

By Des Ryan, a retired police officer, CRA Board Director, and the CRA’s safety and security lead.

As we begin to reconnect with neighbours, who, like ourselves, have been bundled beyond recognition for the past few months, that sweet smell of spring is in the air. And, with that comes the urge to purge. No basement or shed is immune.

What to do with all of the old paints, primers, and stain? Or the aerosol cans, household cleaning products, and quarter-containers of bleach that we don’t want? Or those pesticides, partial bags of old fertilizer, and other stuff that doesn’t meet the criteria for the green, grey, or blue bins?

Well, for a fee that can be paid by cash, debit, or credit card, you can take it all down to the “Orange Drop” at the Commissioners Street Transfer Station, located at 400 Commissioners St.

Or, you can have the City of Toronto pick up your Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) for free (except for florescent lights) by calling 311 or registering online for what’s nicknamed the “Toxic Taxi” – city pickup of hazardous waste.

There are rules around pick-up and this city website gives detailed instructions both on what’s considered hazardous waste, and how you can get the city to take it off your hands (it should never be put in regular garbage). The HHW has to be placed in front of your home, on your property (not at the curb or on the sidewalk), on the day of pickup. If you don’t have a front-of-home suitable for pickup, you can leave the items on an open front porch or veranda.

If you’ve got liquids to be picked up, they have to be labelled and sealed in a non-leaking container. And don’t stack all of your different Hazardous Household Waste together. Batteries, paints, and fluorescent light bulbs do not mix well together.

If you find needles or syringes that you want to dispose of, place them in a sealed plastic container (plastic jug, water bottle, etc.) or an approved sharps container and label the container “needles / syringes”.

Let’s say  you call, the by give you a date, you put your HHW out, and it doesn’t get picked  up. Then what? Give the city a couple of working days before calling 311. Sometimes, there are operational issues that cause delays.

Other issues that could affect pickup:
– A container leaked, there was no lid, or the liquids were unlabelled.
– The materials were mixed together into one toxic stew.
– Too many items to pick up at once (i.e. more than 50 litres/50 kilograms or 24 cans, in which case you need to book a couple of pickups)
– The items set out were too large (i.e. a drum full of motor oil)
– Items not accepted under Household Hazardous Waste parameters including:
     – explosives (i.e. ammunition – can be taken to 51 Division of Toronto Police Services at 51 Parliament St.),
     – fireworks (soak them in water, seal them in a plastic bag, and dispose of as waste).

Provided everything has been properly packed and set out, however, there should be no problems. And you’ll be left with a clean, safe, non-toxic basement or shed. And plenty of space to store other things – such as your snow tires.

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