During the 1960’s there was a street theater group, known as the Diggers, in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco.Â They regularly held free concerts, fed the public for free in golden gate park, and perhaps the most famous of their altruistic activities; the free store.Â
The free store was basically a second hand store that people would bring unwanted itemsÂ to and anyone could walk in off the street and pick up anything they wanted off the shelves for free; no money ever changed hands.Â Â The Diggers aren’t around anymore (at least not in Haight-Ashbury) but the concept of the free store has been carried to a lot of unexpected Venues.Â A friend of mine who was a student at Fort Worth’s Baptist Seminary told me that they had a free store of sorts in the dorm, and free stores have gained in popularity all across Europe.
What has all this got to do with Chemicals and waste disposal?Â Well, everything; especially if you live in Fort Worth, Texas.Â This week I had the pleasure of visiting Fort Worth’s Environmental Collection Center.Â If you live in Fort Worth or one of the participating municipalities (go to their website to see if your community is one of them) you can show up at the center with acids, aerosol cans, antifreeze, batteries (all kinds, including car batteries), brake fluid, cooking oil, craft chemicals, degreasers, drain cleaner, fertilizer, fluorescent light bulbs, compact flourescent light bulbs (CFLs), herbicides, household chemicals, motor oil, paints & stains, paint thinners, pest strips, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, photo chemicals, pool chemicals, oil filters, solvents, transmission fluid and varnish…And they will take them off your hands.Â
Now, many years ago I played in a band with the primary purpose in life to promote environmental issues.Â We played free concerts at several drop off recycling centers like this in order to promote recycling and proper waste disposal so that people wouldn’t be dumping motor oil down storm drains;Â It’s not new.Â But what I found unique and how we tie this all together is that not only is this a drop off and recycling center; it’s a free store for household chemicals and paint.Â I first heard about this service from Ken Otoole, the gallery director of The Second Floor Gallery in Fort Worth.Â He painted the entire art gallery using paint obtained for free from the ECC.Â I admit, the first thing I thought of was the old Steven Wright joke “I just bought some used paint; it came in the shape of a house”Â but as he explained you simply walk in and take whatever paint other citizens have dropped off.Â You get free paint and the paint winds up on your walls instead of in a landfill somewhere.Â You may have to mix a few to get the color you want, but the price is right.
And we’re not talking just paint. When I was there I found carpet cleaner, motor oil, bio-degradable degreaser (that one went home with me; I drive a diesel after all), sterno, bicycle chain lube and all kinds of things that I personally have paid good money for in the past.Â Nothing beats saving the environment and saving money all at the same time.Â
And what happens to the stuff that nobody wants or they can’t give out?Â Well, cooking oil is used to make bio-fuels, batteries are stripped and recycled, used motor oil is recycled, and pesticides are shipped to appropriate centers to be incinerated and rendered harmless.Â Paint cans are crushed, allowed to dry, and then crushed some moreÂ before being safely disposed of.Â In short; everything that can be recycled is recycled, and everything that can’t is safely converted.Â Much better than dumping it down a storm drain I think.
Like I said before, there are a limited number of communities that can participate in Fort Worth’s program and if yourÂ community doesn’t have such a program you have some campaigning to do with your city government.Â To find out what is available to you visit Earth911.org and punch in what youÂ have and where you need to get rid of it and it will tell you whats available locally; and while you’re there see if they have a free store.Â If not, talk to them about the free frame of reference.Â