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Hazardous waste collection facility sees busy year

Nobles County Enviromental Officer Mark Koster sorts items brought to the Household Hazardous Waste facility at the Public Works building in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — While Nobles County’s Household Hazardous Waste facility is open every Tuesday, this Saturday marks the last weekend hours at the collection site until next spring.

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The HHW facility, located in the county’s public works building at 960 Diagonal Road, will be open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday to collect everything from unused kitchen and bath cleaners to paint, electronics and fluorescent bulbs. Its usual Tuesday hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Mark Koster, who coordinates the collections at the HHW facility, said usage of the service has been increasing. Already this year, he’s had 626 visits by people either dropping items off for waste recycling or picking up items in the product exchange. Last year, the facility served 616 individuals.

“It’s been a busy year and it seems like if the weather stays nice, people like to clean up their garages and their houses and stuff,” he said.

Still, the facility is one of the better-kept secrets in Worthington. Koster said people often don’t realize the extent of items they can get rid of —many at no cost to them.

“I take paints —latex, oil base —varnishes, cleaners, anything under the kitchen and bathroom sink, aerosol cans, roofing tar, lawn fertilizer, lawn chemicals … adhesives, acids, cleaners like Drano, toilet bowl cleaner … and all those items we take for free,” said Koster.

Thermostats, because of the high amount of mercury they contain —the equivalent to 300 to 400 flourescent bulbs —are also collected at no cost. During the summer months, the facility collects a lot of 2.5-gallon chemical jugs, as long as they are triple-rinsed and brought in with the lid and label removed.

 “What we do charge for is fluorescent bulbs and electronics … dehumidifiers and window air conditioners,” Koster said.

Every item collected at the HHW facility is shipped out, with product going to the regional facility in Marshall for distribution or direct to a buyer.

While the facility doesn’t charge for most items, Koster said it must pay to get rid of what is collected. Latex paint, for instance, costs the HHW $335 per 1,200 pounds to recycle, with oil-based paints costing $380 per 1,200 pounds. One 55-gallon drum of fuel costs $50 to dispose of.

The facility is able to recoup some of its costs through the county’s solid waste assessment, which also helps fund the weekly recycling program in communities, and the rural recycling collection sites.

Koster said that as recycling rates increase, the usage of the HHW product exchange room has also increased. The exchange room offers products free for the taking.

“Usually it’s paints and stains, wallpaper removers and a few cleaners,” Koster said. “I had a lady pretty much paint her whole house from the paint that we get in here.”

Items brought to the HHW facility keep dangerous chemicals from leaking or leaching into the ground.

“These items are banned from the landfill,” Koster said, adding that it is illegal to burn some of the chemicals.

The HHW facility is not licensed to accept business waste, although it can take electronics and fluorescent bulbs from businesses because they have to pay for the disposal.

Despite the vast array of items accepted at the HHW facility, Nobles County Environmental Services Director Wayne Smith anticipates it will be adding to the list in the future.

Smith, who attended the National Household Hazardous Waste Convention last week, said the facility may be asked to collect empty propane and oxygen tanks at some point. Programs for collecting those items are in the process of being developed, he added.

In addition, the facility may soon have some partners in collecting leftover paint. During the last legislative session, Smith said the state created a Minnesota Paint Exchange recycling program. It is the third state in the country —behind Washington and California —to do so.

“Not only will people be able to take (paint) to the household hazardous waste facility, but other dealers who sign up for the program (will collect paint as well),” Smith said. He said it will be advantagous to businesses who sell paint, because when people drop off leftover paint they may purchase other items. It’s also advantageous to the HHW facility, because it will free up time for collection of other materials.

Smith said some of the promotions coming forth include collections of smoke detectors and other items with “problem materials.”

A list of items accepted at the HHW facility can be found on the Nobles County website at

“Even if what they have is not listed, just give us a call,” Koster said. “We don’t take explosives, but they can call us and we can tell them how to properly dispose of items.”

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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