By Drew Hatzenbihler
Solid Waste Administrator
The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder, and leaves are starting to change color. This can only mean one thing… It’s time for another Household Hazardous Waste event in Fillmore County! This fall, Household Hazardous Waste Day will be on Tuesday, October 2 from 12-5 p.m. This past spring, I offered some tips to help everyone make the best of their Household Hazardous Waste experience. This time, I thought I would take some time to talk about what happens to the hazardous waste we generate each year.
During both of last year’s events we served 403 individuals who brought in waste from 434 households. In addition, we disposed of 8,903 gallons of paint, 220 gallons of flammable liquids, 1,692 pounds of aerosols, 1,491 pounds of household pesticides and much more! As you can imagine, disposing of this much hazardous waste is no easy task. Luckily, we have some partnerships that help us along the way.
Fillmore County partners with Winona County for our collection events. Winona County has a dedicated Hazardous Waste Facility for use by its county residents. Their staff comes to every event to offer their expertise and assist with the collection, sorting, and disposal of hazardous waste.
After all the waste has been collected, sorted, and packaged, Veolia Environmental Services picks up the waste and transports it for disposal. Depending on the material, the hazardous waste is recycled, reused, or destroyed. If there is an opportunity to recycle or beneficially use any of the items we collect, that is done so by Veolia. An example of beneficial reuse is safely burning some of the materials to produce energy. Any items that cannot be recycled or reused are incinerated by Veolia. Hazardous waste is burned at high temperatures in a highly controlled environment to destroy the materials. The resulting fumes are cleaned and scrubbed before being released into the air and the remnants of the material are properly disposed of. Generally, disposal would require a special landfill designed to hold this material.
One of the most common hazardous items we collect is paint. In Minnesota, we are able to utilize a program called PaintCare. You may have seen a PaintCare fee on your receipt the last time you purchased paint. Through this program, 100% of the cost of disposal of paint is covered for designated collectors. From July of 2016 to June of 2017, over one million gallons of paint were collected through this program! Of that amount, 81% was latex paint and 19% was oil based. Of the latex paint collected, 38% was used in recycled-content paint, 50% was used as landfill cover, and 12% was reused. Of the oil-based paint, 89% was used as fuel and 11% was reused. While Fillmore County only collects paint two days per year, there are many sites nearby that collect paint year round for no fee (the fee you pay when purchasing paint covers the disposal). A list of nearby collection sites can be found at paintcare.org.
Utilizing these services, we are able to responsibly handle and dispose of the hazardous waste that county residents produce each year. Proper disposal of hazardous waste is very important for preserving the natural resources we have in Minnesota and ensuring that we avoid contaminating our most important resources.
As a reminder, on Household Hazardous Waste Day we can accept aerosol cans, latex and oil based paints, household cleaners/chemicals, household pesticides, mercury thermometers and thermostats, pool chemicals, poisons, tars/adhesives/glues, stains/varnishes/wood preservatives, and gasoline and diesel fuels. Antifreeze, motor oil and medical sharps (provided they are in a sealed detergent bottle) are accepted during normal business hours year round and also on this day. We CANNOT accept agricultural chemicals, explosives, medical waste (excluding medical sharps), business waste, and radioactive waste. Any empty/dry paint cans can be disposed of in your normal trash and empty aerosol containers can be recycled. If you have any questions please give the Fillmore County Resource Recovery Center a call at (507) 765-4704.