About 4,400 people came to the four free events last year, an increase of 12 percent over the previous year. The goal is to raise participation further, and all metro-area residents are welcome under a reciprocal agreement among metro counties.
Although the disposal is free to the public, Dakota County will pay about $120,000 in labor, transportation costs and fees to get what is collected recycled.
Dakota had the first household hazardous waste event in the state in Inver Grove Heights back in 1985. Proper disposal of the waste is a concern to the county because it has the only active landfills in the metro area, said Laura Villa, senior environmental specialist for the county. “If waste is mismanaged, we are the ones who are going to bear the brunt of that. Even the ash from the burners comes out here. So it really is in our best interest to get these things out of people’s homes and properly managed.”
Making the disposal free is an incentive for people to do the right thing with their hazardous materials, Villa said. “I think people want to do the right thing. We try to make it easy for them, and we try to educate them on what the proper thing is.”
Dakota is behind only Hennepin County in the number of people who participate in the events and the pounds of materials dropped off. Last year Dakota collected 175,000 pounds of hazardous waste, 225,000 pounds of electronics and 6,000 fluorescent light bulbs.
Paint and electronics are the items most often dropped off, Villa said. Pesticides, batteries, antifreeze and used oil are also accepted along with vacuum cleaners, toasters, coffee makers, fans and just about anything with a cord.
Lakeville will have the second event on May 3; Farmington will have one on Sept. 6 and Burnsville on Sept. 27. For information go to http://tinyurl.com/qzez6cu.
The cities may have their own cleanup events at the same time, allowing people to drop off things like furniture and refrigerators, and there is usually a fee for disposal of those things, Villa said.
It costs the county more than $100,000 to dispose of the hazardous waste because people must be paid to unload the cars, sort and pack up material and then transport it for proper disposal and recycling.
“Our latex paint goes to a facility in Blaine where most of it is made into new paint,” Villa said. Oil paint is burned in an incinerator for its heat value. Fluorescent bulbs go to a recycler in Blaine where the mercury is separated and the metal end caps are recovered.
Electronics are sent to a contractor in suburban Chicago where they are recycled into components, Villa said. Precious metals can be recovered from circuit boards and plastics can be reused.
Previously, the county paid $300,000 a year to recycle electronics.
“At this time we are only paying for the transportation of the electronics,” because there is a re-use market for the components, Villa said.