I recently decided I no longer needed to keep some old cans of paint in my garage. Not knowing the appropriate procedure for disposing of them, I consulted the Hillsborough County website and found information on Household Chemicals and Electronics Collection Centers. I learned there were three centers, but each was open only one day each month. The nearest one to my home is on Sheldon Road, and it was open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month. So on June 7 I set out with my five cans of paint.
I approached the center, driving west on Sheldon. At a distance of one-half mile from the center, the traffic in the right lane came to a dead stop. At first, I thought there had been an accident, but then I noticed several of the vehicles in front of me had cans of paint on board. It was 11 a.m. I had purposely decided to wait for the mid-point of the operating hours to avoid any traffic surge. Clearly, something was wrong.
I stayed in my lane, inching along, wondering if this were a normal occurrence. By now, the line behind me was so long, I could not see the end. After many minutes of creeping along, I finally was able to make out the right turn to the access road to the collection center. But, something was strange. The vehicles entering from Sheldon were lining up in the left lane of the access road, not the right lane. As a result, the vehicles turning from Sheldon had to cross in front of the vehicles exiting the center, making for a series of starts and stops, screeching of brakes, and dangerous maneuvering.
When I finally reached the front of the line, I wiggled around and between exiting vehicles and entered the collection center property. It had taken me 35 minutes to travel one-half mile. I calculate that my average speed while in line was 1 mph. I looked over my shoulder at the line of vehicles remaining on Sheldon and could not see the end.
I was now at the end of a new line of vehicles, driving on the left side of the road as if we were in England. To my right was a steady stream of vehicles departing the property. I had no idea where this new line was going, since there were absolutely no signs posted on anything related to turning in chemicals and electronics. Like a lemming, I stayed in line, creeping along. After traveling a brief distance, I noticed another line coming in the opposite direction at the same snail’s pace I was going. Just before they reached me, they began to turn left into an area that had sheds and trailers with workers in matching-color T-shirts. It dawned on me that this area is where I would actually turn in my old paint, but only if I could get there by the 2 p.m. closing time.
The access road with the English driving rules proved to be nearly one-half mile long with a turnaround at the end. It took me 25 minutes to get to the turnaround. I arrived at the left turn into the drop-off area 22 minutes later. The drop-off of my old paint took no more than two minutes. The workers were efficient and professional.
Some observations: It took me one and one-half hours to turn in a few cans of old paint. My average driving speed during was 1 mph. I observed more than 100 vehicles trying to turn in items. The turn-in process itself was quick and professional. The design of the turn-in area is exactly backward. The fundamental problem is not enough resources are provided to meet customer demand. The impact on the environment from so many vehicles must be enormous.
What to do? Open the center more times per month. Extend the turn-in hours. Redesign the layout to avoid English driving rules. Move the turn-in location to the end of the access road (near the turnaround). Ask a few county commissioners to show up on July 5 and help direct traffic.
As currently operated, the collection process is a disgrace. The citizens of our area (who showed admirable self-control) deserve better.