On Rob’s Mind: Where Does Your Junk Really Go?

| Rob Smith

In the course of all our lives, we end up with items that we no longer want for a variety of reasons.  Perhaps the item is no longer needed for one of various reasons or maybe it is just plain worn out. Making decisions with the next steps on these items may have the potential for personal liability that many people may not be fully aware of until they are faced with the consequences. 

As we all know, there are many ways to dispose of unwanted items in your home or business.  This often depends upon the condition of the piece and your willingness to commit effort to identify and coordinate the item’s next step in its life cycle.  Clearly, one easy way to rid yourself of the material is to give an item away to others for reuse.  A common example is “hand me downs” to family and friends, which are a great way to repurpose clothes.  Items with more complexity or importance, may require more consideration and care as you think about giving them away or selling them.  There are some important questions to ask yourself before you decide the fate of your unwanted goods. Is the item safe and compliant when considering current safety standards?  Does this toy that has been safely used for a generation or two now have loosened parts that could potentially choke the next user? Is this tool that has laid in your workbench damaged and thus potentially dangerous?

Some people utilize the route of donating their items to an agency such as Goodwill or AM Vets.  These are worthy ways to give items a second life because not only are the items repurposed but there are associated jobs created for many people along the way.  With this in mind, it is still important to scrutinize the goods we pass along to these organizations. The idea of “donating” unusable items, things that are just trash, to these groups is not responsible on our part. We would all like to think that someone else can get more use out of something we are getting rid of but in many cases your trash never becomes someone else’s treasure because it really is just trash.  These useless items add unnecessary cost to the organizations we are supposedly intending to assist, which should never be our goal.  In this example, we have just shifted the cost we should have paid for proper disposal of the items to  a non-profit or charitable organization. 

The disposition of items we choose to recycle, repurpose or donate do require contemplation by us.  Safety of future users is just one of many potential outcomes that could carry some unwanted consequences and subsequent regret for us.  In the event we choose the disposal of our items, we also have decisions to make which carry potential liability for each of us. As with passing items along, we must ask ourselves some questions as we dispose of our items. Who is hauling the material away?  Are they licensed to haul this type waste if licensing is required?  Where will this material end up for disposal? 

I have a family member who had a “contractor” clean out a house for her.  One very good price was charged for a turnkey cleanout.  Labor, hauling and disposal was all in the price.  This was a great deal on the surface until the police came knocking on her door weeks later.  They proceeded to inform her that the material which the contractor hauled away from her house was discovered illegally disposed of in a vacant building.  Her address was included on many of the items that were disposed of by the contractor, so the generator (her) was easy to locate. 

I tell you this story because many people fail to realize that the generators of waste are responsible for the proper disposal of their waste.  That personal liability never is transferred just because someone else is paid to haul the material away.  Out of sight might feel like out of mind but it is still our liability.  We are responsible from “cradle to grave” for the waste.

In this age of the internet, social media and third-party sites making advertising easy & cheap, hauling and waste removal are common advertised commodities.  All you need is a pickup truck or a trailer and you are “For Hire”.  Many of these folks doing jobs “on the side” or unofficially, do not even know if they are required to hold a license to do this hauling work or where they will properly dispose of the waste let alone the associated costs.  If your waste ends up being disposed of improperly, you will be the one receiving the knock on your door from the authorities and dealing with the additional cleanup costs and additional consequences not your “great deal” hauler. 

As you can see, ridding ourselves of unwanted items requires some amount of thoughtfulness on our part.  What is the next responsible step for these items?  Can we sleep at night because we know that we have made the right decisions?  I am 100% in favor of the responsible recycling and reuse of all unwanted items.  I am also a 100% supporter for the protection of our environment by utilizing licensed and reliable haulers for the disposal of all waste. 

Thank you in advance for thoughtfully considering the proper disposition of your unwanted items.  If you need a responsible and reliable hauling partner to give you great service and peace of mind, please contact Armada Waste.