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Kandiyohi Co., Minn., collects near-record 68 tons of household hazardous waste

Waste is packed into drums Friday at the Kandiyohi County Household Hazardous Waste Center in Willmar. The county packed and shipped its second-highest volume of household hazardous waste in 2011. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

Jay Baker knew it was busy last year at the Kandiyohi County Hou-sehold Hazardous Waste facility in Willmar.

But when he tallied up the number of participating households and the pounds of items -- like pesticides, paint and fluorescent light bulbs that were shipped out -- he was shocked at the total.

Last year, 68.8 tons of hazardous waste was collected, packed and shipped out of the Willmar facility. That's a 42 percent increase from the year before and represents the second-highest volume ever recorded there.

"It's hard to imagine there's that much stuff out there," said Baker, manager of the Household Hazardous Waste center. "It really adds up."

Ideally, people should "buy what they're going to use and use up what they buy," Baker said.

But he said it's a good thing that people are using the facility to bring materials that could otherwise end up in the landfill or poured down the drain.

After the hazardous waste is recorded and packed into drums in Willmar, it's sent to out-of-state facilities licensed to dispose of hazardous waste. Some items are buried and some are incinerated.

Although most of the waste was generated by Kandiyohi County residents, some waste does come from co-sponsoring counties, including Meeker, Lac qui Parle, Swift, Chippewa, Big Stone and Renville counties.

Of the total tonnage, paint makes up a significant portion.

Last year 66,550 pounds of latex and 31,900 pounds of oil paint were shipped out.

The amount of agricultural waste that was brought to the facility doubled last year and it appears that sector will continue to grow, said Baker, adding that he's not sure why there's been such a big increase.

Farm chemicals are taxed on the front end to help pay for disposal. The state pays the county for collecting, documenting and shipping out the ag chemicals. Last year that reimbursement was $11,431, which is up from $5,494 the year before.

Word is also getting out about recycling fluorescent light bulbs. Last year 24,000 were brought to the facility from individuals and businesses. That's up from 20,000 the year before.

There is a charge of 50 cents per bulb, but most residents can get that fee waived if they are customers of the Willmar Municipal Utilities or the Kandiyohi Power Cooperative.

Baker said the number of total households also took a big jump. Last year there were 3,556 participating households, which is an increase of 834 from the previous year.

Other than fluorescent light bulbs, there is no charge for household residents to bring hazardous waste to the facility.

Businesses that generate a small amount of hazardous waste are allowed to use the facility. Although business must pay a fee, Baker said it is offered at an "affordable" price that is far less expensive than using commercial hazardous waste companies that come to communities to collect items.

In 2010 there were 28 business participants. Last year that number increased to 36.

The program also has an exchange in which good, unused items -- paint and cleaning products, for example -- can be brought to the center and picked up for free by those who can use it.

Last year 566 gallons of paint, 368 aerosols and 662 cleaning items were given away, and used, rather than thrown away.

The Kandiyohi County Household Hazardous Waste facility is located next to the recycling center, at 1400 22nd St. S.W. in Willmar. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information call 320-231-3587.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750