Answer Man

Pepper spray can be trashed easily

Jose Miranda reacts to getting sprayed in the face with pepper spray while training at Camp Westbrook in the New Mexico desert in 2008. After getting sprayed the soldiers have to open their eyes.
Jose Miranda reacts to getting sprayed in the face with pepper spray while training at Camp Westbrook in the New Mexico desert in 2008. After getting sprayed the soldiers have to open their eyes. Tribune News Service

Q. I have pepper spray that is at least 25 or 30 years old. I’m sure it can’t be good anymore, so how can I get rid of it?

— R.C., of Belleville

A. No reason to be all hot and bothered when there are two simple ways to dispose of this popular chemical weapon, according to Belleville’s Sanitation Department.

The absolute safest way is to take the canister outside, hold it at arm’s length and spray it against concrete or rock until the canister is empty. Then, simply toss it in your regular trash. I’m assured that the spray will not discolor the concrete, and by putting an empty can in your trash, there’s no chance of it exploding either in your garage or while some unsuspecting sanitation engineer is dumping it into his truck.

Of course, you want to make sure that while you’re emptying the can there’s no headwind that could blow the stuff back in your face. If you happen to get spray on your hands or other areas of skin, wash them thoroughly. If you start to feel a burning sensation, try cooling it with milk or a baking soda paste. Wash any affected clothing items, too, before you wear them again.

However, the sanitation folks say another method is also acceptable if you’re leery about trying to empty the can yourself: Place the canister with any remaining contents into a heavy-duty zip lock plastic storage bag and fully close the seal tightly. Then, place the bag with the can into a standard plastic garbage bag and drop the entire mess in your trash. This should prevent any emergency situation arising in the slim chance that the can would burst before it winds up in a landfill.

For pepper-spray rookies who may have recently bought their first can or those thinking of trying it, such sites as Your Greatest Protection in King of Prussia, Pa., and pepperspraycenter.com offer these pearls of wisdom:

You should heed any expiration dates on the cans. Even if the contents retain their heat, the internal pressure may drop over time so that when you try to spray an attacker, it may not be nearly as forceful or go as far as you expected. If no date is given, most containers have a shelf life of about three or four years.

Like smoke alarms, it also is recommended you test your spray every three months or so.

“Sprays should be tested by firing a half-second burst,” Your Greatest Protection suggests. “Testing must always be done outside with any wind blowing from behind you. Remember that all activations will reduce the contents of the canister. Smaller capacity models will therefore need to be replaced every nine to 12 months if these testing procedures are adhered to.”

Q. I have several cans of old paint that I would like to dispose of properly. I haven’t seen an IEPA disposal day advertised in a long time. Do you know where I can take these cans to be properly disposed of?

— Jean Thouvenot

A. If you don’t mind painting the town red — or any other color — I have one solution for your oil-based paint that’s a masterpiece.

Simply paint pieces of scrap wood or cardboard with your leftovers, let them dry and then throw them out with your trash. That’s the recommendation of the St. Clair County Health Department, but I suppose it depends on how much paint you have left. I’m sure you don’t want to spend weeks as a Michelleangelo slopping on gallons of the old stuff.

If it’s worth giving away, you might try to find a charity like Habitat for Humanity that could use it. Otherwise, you might have to haul it over to Earthbound Recycling in Eureka, Mo., which is the only place Earth911.com lists as a paint recycler in the St. Louis area. However, they will charge you 30 cents per pound (including can) for the service. If this is a viable option, you can call them at 636-938-1188 for directions and more information.

On the other hand, disposing of latex paint is a breeze. Just pour cat litter into the cans to absorb the paint and put it out with your regular trash.

Q. Why does your TV magazine no longer give summaries of movies that rate lower than three stars?

— W.N., of Fairview Heights

A. To improve its look and cut the cost, we decided to change the format of our TV Week from 48 smaller pages to 40 larger ones. Unfortunately, like a network that cancels an underperforming show which happens to be someone’s favorite, we had to make some cuts to make it all fit. Those cuts included axing the synopses of movies that merited only one thumb up or maybe even just a little finger from critics.

“We felt like the new larger format makes an easier read for customers while reducing some of our costs for producing the weekly publication,” BND Editor Jeffry Couch told me. “Even with the changes, the BND’s cost of producing the product is still higher than what we charge readers for it.”

Today’s trivia

Who was the first person to be inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist before being inducted as a member of a band?

Answer to Tuesday’s trivia: In the early 1800s, King Ferdinand VII of Spain was encouraged to show that Spanish art was equal to that of any other European country. So he turned an ornate building that had been erected to house the National History Cabinet into the Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculptures. Soon, it was renamed the National Museum of Painting and Sculpture and, finally, the Museo Nacional del Prado (the Prado) — because it was built in a meadow or “prado.” Today, it houses one of the world’s greatest collections of art, including Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Greco’s “Crucifixion,” and Bruegel’s “The Triumph of Death.”

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

  Comments