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Some Things The HAZMAT Dudes Can Have…:

The last time I utilized our city’s Household Hazardous Waste Center was about two months ago. We had replaced two very long fluorescent bulbs in a laundry room fixture. While they save energy and generally enjoy a long life, there is nothing one can do with a burned-out fluorescent bulb. And new or old, I still hate them. Because nearly every time I have to deal with replacing these beasts, one of the delicate, horrible cursed things breaks.

And when they break, they shatter into hundreds of tiny little shards of glass. In my youth I was constantly warned of things that would “take my eye out.” BB guns of course, sharp sticks, toys that fired plastic missiles. One birthday I received a toy mortar that fired soft white plastic rockets. My mother was certain she would someday have to tell friends, “He was killed by mortar fire, during the battle of Mattel.” But no, I had to grow up and live in a house with fluorescent bulbs before I became really concerned that something ugly would injure my eyes.

So I very carefully loaded the long, delicate glass monsters into the back of the station wagon, and gently drove them over the Waste Center. And there, a very conscientious chap carefully lifted them from my car and put them… someplace. Even he commented, “Yeah, these babies are a mess to deal with.”

It feels odd to put the words “household” and “Hazmat” together in a sentence, but that’s the world we live in. A can of paint seems innocent enough when you first go to the store and bring it home. But let it sit half-full for a few years, and now it has become a creepy thing waiting under the stairs. Flammable, icky… toxic if the dog gets into it. You want it out. Away. Gone.

So it’s good news that Santa Monica residents can now contact a new program where Household Hazardous Waste will be collected right from your doorstep. (Reserve collection service by calling Waste Management at 800.449.7587 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.) In fact, if this initial “pilot” program proves popular, drop-off at the Waste Center may be phased out. To encourage everyone to get involved, I’m suggesting a few things you might want to have the new pick-up service swing by and take off your hands.

Of course there’s the usual collection of dead batteries, engine oil, and various toxic fluids… most of which either fell from or were removed from my ’86 Benz. But look again, household managers. There may be a world of toxic waste lurking in your homes and you haven’t even properly identified it yet.

What about those stacks of old People magazines? While you might somehow staple them together and in flipping the pages backwards create a kind of herky-jerky movie of Brad Pitt’s love life, what happens if your kids get into them? How will you justify your emotional lectures to them about reading great books and serious newspapers if they know you’ve still got a 1981 People that claims to “Tell all” about Burt Reynolds and Sally Fields’ weekend in Mexico? Even the ads, for 100 millimeter cigarettes and some mysterious fluid called “Summer’s Eve,” could open up doors better left closed. Out they go, and you’d best wear work gloves when stacking them in case any of that “Donny and Marie Fever!” is still contagious.

Then there’s that box of cassette self-help tapes that were supposed to “Awaken the Giant Within” and lead to improved personal relationships. Except of course you broke-up with the girl you were trying to “improve” with, and she later ran off with Tony Robbins. You could try getting a few dollars for them at your next yard sale, but if you can’t talk a neighbor into giving you five bucks for twenty cassette tapes, doesn’t that prove that your giant is still sound asleep? Nope… better put that in the pile for the Hazmat dudes. With their special training, they’ll know how to locate those somewhere they’ll never be played again.

Teenage males in your household may need help disposing of a can of Axe Body Spray. Keep in mind that if you place that stuff too close to any Axe Shower Gel, a kind of spontaneous combustion is possible. Apparently what happens is that the smoke draws teen women who are now unable to control their giggling urge to meet someone who actually buys that junk. This will turn out badly for your teen male and worse for the father who accidentally stands too near the cloud. Although some Internet accounts report that the fire can be doused with a large bottle of either Hai Karate or 007 cologne.

Then there’s that case of Zima you have hidden in the garage. Yeah, you might get something for it on eBay because of the high demand for carbonated alcoholic beverages that have not been produced domestically since 2008. But think a minute: Do you really want everyone that visits eBay to know you used to be “into” Zima? Won’t it be hard enough listening to the Hazmat collection guys laughing their butts off when they come to pick it up at your house? You know they’ll be thinking, “Closet full of turtleneck sweaters…”

You can argue that some of these items might not meet the standard for “hazardous waste.” But think of that place where old oil, paint, and fluorescent bulbs go to die. It has to be a location that no one in their right mind would ever enter or dig around in. Isn’t that where you want to send your Shaquille O’Neal rap CD? A location filled with so much toxic gunk that no one in their right mind would enter. Come on now… hand it over. Don’t make me use my Shaq Fu…

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