Leftover paint, pesticides and motor oil waste can wreak havoc on the environment and your health if not disposed of properly. But on the southwest side of Houston, Chris Ford is making environmental safety a priority by helping Houstonians dispose of common hazardous household waste.
“It’s very important for City of Houston residents to know and be aware of the dangers regular household chemicals can cause in their home and in the landfills,” said Ford, an environmental investigator for the Solid Waste Department.
With a background in hazardous materials emergency response and a bachelor’s degree in safety management, Ford is helping to reduce the city’s trash footprint.
“Here at the environmental service center we collect hazardous household waste,” said Ford of the main function of the city’s South Post Oak Environmental Service Center. “We ship that waste out and dispose of it properly.”
The ESC – South location is one of two centers the city operates that offer hazardous household waste drop-off locations. Two days a week on collection days, residents can drive through and drop off items.
“They can bring chemicals such as pesticides, households chemicals, households cleaners, pool chemicals, e-waste as far as computers, printer cartridges and ink,” Ford said.
“We ask that they have their chemicals and their hazardous household waste in their original containers, if not have them labeled, upright, in a box and not leaking,” he said.
Last year, the ESC - South collected 1 million pounds of waste with 30 percent of that waste being reused, according to the Solid Waste Department.
Respecting the environment
“On a normal collection day, we’ll service about 100 residents within a time span from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., “ Ford said.
“When we do a mobile event,” he said. “We’ll do like 600 cars in 4 hours.”
Ford’s charismatic work style keeps resident after resident smiling throughout collection days.
When Ford’s not busy helping residents on collections days, he’s busy performing safety walks, giving tours of the facility, or helping his coworkers prepare items to be shipped out or reused.
“We are generally packaging chemicals, drumming up chemicals, packing flammables, and getting things in order,” Ford said.
Citizens can also drop off items such as leftover paint to be reused, said Ford. Every Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., the ESC – South offers free reuse chemical and paint takeaway.
He believes his role at the center helps residents take an active role in protecting our environment.
“I help make residents more safety conscious, more responsible for recycling, and more environmentally conscious,” Ford said.
Currently, the city operates six neighborhood depository and recycling centers, three city recycling centers, and a Reuse Warehouse that accepts excess building materials.
In a booming city like Houston, construction material accounts for 38 percent of the waste stream in the Houston area, according to the Solid Waste Department.
Residents also benefit from a curbside recycling program that accepts plastics, paper, aluminum cans, cardboard and used motor oil.
A tradition of service
Ford’s passion for service is family tradition started by his father, Douglas Ford, who worked 31 years for the Public Works and Engineering Department as a water maintenance supervisor.
“Growing up every morning I saw my dad get up and go to work in his city blues, “ Ford said. “He instilled that mentality of service, service to your community and service to your city,” he said.
Ford feels working for the city has helped him to make a difference.
“I’m helping to better my community, better my self, and provide for my family just like my father did for me.”
To learn more about the city’s environmental service centers, recycling centers, or curbside recycling program visit http://www.houstontx.gov/solidwaste/.
Chris Ford labeling containers.
Chris Ford unloading items from resident's car.
South Post Oak Enviromental Service Center Warehouse
Chris Ford and his coworkers taking items to be seperated.
Chris Ford about to conduct an acid test on household chemical.
Dropped of paint to be evaluated for resuse.
Chris Ford and his coworker going through items on collection day.
Chris Ford sorting spray paint and other items.
Chris Ford sorting through items dropped off by residents.