Column: Hazard waste collection benefits residents, environment

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

By Randy Tuchtenhagen, solid waste officer for Freeborn County

Where does all the household hazardous waste go? What products do you collect most? We are often asked these questions.

We continue to be amazed at the amount of product received at collections. I keep thinking there must be a better solution to chemical use or a substitute that is safer, but the products keep coming.

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While 70 percent is paint and paint products, there are still a lot of harmful chemicals like pentachlorophenol, a preservative, chlordane, a pesticide, arsenic compounds, adhesives and acids commonly used many years ago.

Paint is the largest inventory of product we receive. About 60 or 70 percent of the materials we take in are paint cans and paint product. The paint is opened and bulked (dumped) into DOT approved steel drums. On occasion we find some really nice white paint that someone could use and we put it on the free table.

By the end of the season though, if no one has taken it, we bulk it too. If

we have a high demand for white paint, we sometimes bulk it into five gallon pails to give away.

The other paint products like stripper, cleaning solvents and thinner or paint

in an aerosol can might be bulked into a different barrel or lab-packed into a fibre

drum insulated with shredded paper, saw dust or other cushioning material.

Our latex paint barrels are shipped to a company in the Twin Cities for recycling and made into new latex paint products. Amazon Paint company sells recycled paint to contractors and large volume customers in 55-gallon drums.

Most of the

counties in southern Minnesota use Amazon for a vendor. The oil-based paint goes to Onyx, our hazardous waste company vendor. Depending upon need and market conditions they may send these barrels to a variety of companies, including an industrial incinerator to be used as a supplemental fuel.

Throughout the season we collect lead acid batteries, fluorescent bulbs, LP and propane cylinders, ballasts and many other items that are not

necessarily a chemical or liquid, but a problem waste. We use numerous vendors to make sure

the products are properly disposed of and maintain records that show where it went.

After disposing of your unwanted items at a hazardous waste collection, we need to

look at preventing accumulation in the future. Using a less hazardous substitute may do the job and prevent harsh chemical use in the home.

For those hard to clean copper bottom pans, I use vinegar and salt mixture rubbing with a soft scrub pad.

An excellent floor cleaner is a mix of one-half cup of

vinegar into one gallon of warm water.

When mixing, some of the product may be saved in a well-labeled squirt bottle for future spot cleanups.

To keep a drain clear and smelling good, pour one-half cup baking soda into the drain followed by one-half cup vinegar. Allow it to stand for 15 minutes, then flush with two quarts boiling

water. The remaining box of baking soda can be left in the refrigerator as an air


A nice thing about baking soda is its ability to clean many things. It can be used as an oven cleaner, porcelain stain remover, stainless steel polish, toilet-bowl cleaner and tub/tile cleaner. if you save any cleaning mixture in a container, be sure to mark the outside with a magic marker so everyone house knows the contents.

Our hazardous waste collection season will be ending soon, (Sept. 11 and 16) and then we will be shut down until next spring. Our license to operate this program does not allow us to collect materials during the off-season, so be sure to attend one of our last collections if you still have items for disposal.

(Randy Tuchtenhagen is the Solid Waste Officer for Freeborn County.)