for waste control
At Catawba Countys
Education Center, citizens can pedal a bike to compare the energy
it takes to create an aluminum can from minerals versus recycled aluminum.
They can discover non-toxic items to substitute for hazardous household
chemicals. And they can see how groundwater pollution can travel to
The Waste Education Center, operated by Catawba Countys Cooperative Extension Center, helps educate citizens about hazardous waste and pollution generated by homeowners and how to better control what goes into the local landfill. It is just one of many measures undertaken by former agent Deborah Myatt and Catawbas Household Hazardous Waste Task Force.
Since 1989, Catawba County has been concerned about the amount of waste entering the local landfill and being dumped along roadways. The county was not meeting its goals for diverting waste from the landfill through recycling, composting and other means of disposal, Myatt said.
Myatt created the task force
to develop a comprehensive strategy for educating the public about waste
disposal. Through a number of innovative education and collection programs,
the task force has continued to expand citizens awareness of waste
reduction and proper disposal.
The Waste Education Center
opened in December 1997 in a mobile unit behind the Extension center.
The center provides groups with a variety of educational programs on
waste. Because of its small size, the facility can accommodate only
small groups, but Myatt tailors education programs to meet a groups
Groups can create trash
art to discover creative ways of reusing items normally thrown
in the trash. They can visit the centers hands-on displays to
learn lessons about trash and pollution. The center has hosted senior
citizen groups, Scout troops, 4-H summer programs, home school groups
and after-school groups.
Programs from the center
also can be moved to Earth Day celebrations and local street fairs,
bringing education to the people. One activity lets participants choose
non-toxic products to replace more toxic household products, such as
substituting vinegar for commercial window cleaner.
In addition to the indoor
demonstrations, the center features a Composting Corral with demonstration
composting bins. The site includes seven different types of composting
bins, some commercially made and others made from simple materials such
as wire fencing. Some are very sophisticated, with turn handles for
turning the compost. Others must be turned the old-fashioned way
with a pitchfork.
The project was developed
with the help of a state grant by Master
Gardener volunteer Carol Hamilton.
Last fall, Extension began
hosting a composting workshop at the site. For a $10 fee, participants
receive a composting booklet and wire fencing for constructing a home
Another of the task forces
early projects was a notebook for fifth and sixth graders with slides
and activities on household hazardous waste that are relevant to the
science curriculum. The notebooks are still used in schools.
Vermicomposting is another
classroom education project that has been very popular in Catawba County.
Myatt takes a simple worm bin to classrooms and shows students how the
worms can turn household food scraps into a valuable soil amendment.
Classes can adopt a worm bin and use the worms to recycle food scraps
produced at school and brought in from home.
Its been a neat
experience, she said. It reaches all different ages and
really pulls them together, and it helps keep garbage out of the landfill.
Educating youth is important,
but Myatt realized that adults also need better knowledge of how to
dispose of hazardous materials, including automotive wastes, motor oil,
paint and household cleaners.
The county has held three
annual hazardous waste collection days to give the public a means to
dispose of hazardous household waste. The collections days serve as
a teachable moment, educating people when they need to learn how and
why to dispose of hazardous waste.
The Household Hazardous
Waste Education program has been recognized for its contribution to
the community. In 1998, it received the Outstanding County Program Award
from the N.C. Association of County
Commissioners. The National Association
of Counties cited the program in 1991 in recognition of distinguished
and continuing contributions to the cause of strong and efficient county
government in the United States of America.