It's been about 20 years since Pima County has had a lawn and garden equipment exchange program, but starting Monday, there's $133,000 in voucher funding available for the public and commercial contractors.
The Pima County Department of Environmental Quality is working with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to launch the Cut Down Pollution Program.
The program provides the public and commercial contractors with vouchers to swap gas-powered lawn and garden equipment for electric equipment.
PDEQ's senior program manager, Beth Gorman, said the program is more efficient this time around compared to 20 years ago. And Gorman hopes the more efficient process will translate to more equipment exchanged.
"We did this at least 20 years ago, and at that point we collected about 2,500 pieces of equipment over, I think, a two-year period," she said. "Because there was a lot of staffing involved, we only ran it for I think six weekends. And then it was over."
PDEQ's program now uses online registration to cut down on the staffing required and reduce the costs going toward administrative fees.
The program's total grant from the state was $220,000, Gorman said.
There are five sites where participants can take their equipment to be inspected and collected. To find out where the sites are, participants must go to the county's program website at www.pima.gov/HealthyAir and register.
First, PDEQ needs to approve the participants and then issue a drop-off verification form.
PDEQ will then give participants the locations where they can take their equipment and have their drop-off verification forms approved and stamped.
PDEQ will then email vouchers to participants after they submit their approved forms online.
"Before, people just lined up at a drop-off site, and it was just way more chaotic, and we had to review the equipment right then and issue the voucher," Gorman said. "This way, we don't have hours and hours of staff standing there going through all the equipment. It's all done online."
Part of that process relies on participants going online and pledging the gas-powered equipment – such as leaf blowers, weed whackers, mowers and tree trimmers – are in working order.
Gorman said the self-reporting online does play an essential role for PDEQ.
"That way, we have a whole listing for our reporting purposes of what type of equipment is being turned in, the year of the equipment and then we can translate that into emission reductions," she said.
Gorman said there are plenty of benefits that come with switching from gas- to electric-powered equipment.
One is the reduction in sound pollution that disturbs neighbors and can be harmful to the operator's hearing, she said.
"A lot of the gas-powered equipment is running in between maybe 80 to 100 (decibels), depending on the type of equipment and how you're using it," she said. "Anything over 85 decibels can be damaging to your ears."
There are also environmental considerations that Gorman said the program could help mitigate.
"Right now, we are right at the cusp of violating the (Environmental Protection Agency) health standard for ground-level ozone," she said. "We had enough exceedances to be considered in violation of that standard the last couple of years."
Gorman said anything the county and public can do to reduce ozone, which gas-powered equipment contributes to, would help keep the county in compliance with the EPA.
Gorman said PDEQ is hoping to get the word to commercial landscapers since they use gas equipment for more hours regularly than the average person.
"Hopefully, if enough people change over to electric, then maybe we'll be able to avoid any exceedances this summer," she said. "We'd all have healthier air to breathe."
Erin Jordan, public information officer with ADEQ, said the state suspended funding for the program, but brought the program back in fiscal year 2018.
Maricopa County relaunched the program in FY2018. In fiscal years 2018 and '19, the program had 1,466 vouchers issued with an estimated 111.27 tons of emissions saved, she said.