If you’ve lived in the area for a few years and you try to be conscientious about the environment, chances are you experienced the mile-long queue of people waiting to drop off their household hazardous waste during the free annual collection events sponsored by the county in the past. So many people had potentially dangerous items to dispose of that the wait could often be over an hour, making doing the right thing a bit frustrating. Fortunately, people recognized the need for an ongoing disposal site, and in 2016 the Pine County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility opened on Airport Road in Pine City.

The collection center, which shares space in the Pine County Highway Department Building at 405 Airport Road NE in Pine City, is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays from mid-May through September. Now, disposing of hazardous household waste in Pine County is as simple as driving out to the building and unloading, with the help of Aleah Orlowski or Randy Osterdyke, two PHASE employees who staff the site along with Caleb Anderson, Land and Resources Manager for the Pine County Solid Waste Department, the agency that operates the facility.

Free of charge, Pine County residents and property owners can protect the environment and avoid fines and criminal charges by disposing of items such as paint and varnish, aerosol products, antifreeze, insecticides, weed killers, and other chemicals in a safe and legal manner. The site workers sort through the items, putting them in their proper waste designation, and pulling out any items, such as paint, motor oil, bug spray and construction materials, that are still stable and usable. These salvaged goods are added to the Product Reuse shelves and are available to customers for free on a first-come-first serve basis. “A couple people each day stop in to see what we’ve added to the free shelves,” said Osterdyke.

Tonja Miller of Hinckley says she visits the site when she’s working on updating her home or rental property. “Paint is expensive,” she stated. “I can get good paint there for free. Sometimes I find colors I like, otherwise I take a couple and mix them together until I get something that works.” Another visitor to the site was thrilled to find a like-new plastic gas can.

“The area residents have been very appreciative of the service,” Anderson agreed, adding that he often hears that people are glad to have a physical location with scheduled hours. “A good example of your tax dollars at work.”

He went on to explain that the costs to the county and taxpayers for providing this service are significantly offset by state and national programs that are geared toward encouraging proper handling of hazardous waste. The Paint Care Fee that you may have noticed on your bill when buying new paint these days, is one example. Anderson pointed out that these funds are not available unless there is a permanent, ongoing collection location. “Another perk of having a building.”

The collection facility also offers information and education about hazardous waste via handouts and their webpage on the county site. One particularly useful document lists things that are safe to put in the garbage, along with suggestions for where to take items the HHWC site doesn’t accept, such as appliances and electronics.

“I get a clean garage, and I get to do it the right way,” offered Mark Allen of Sandstone, who said he uses the facility every year during spring cleanup around his house. “It’s a win-win situation and we’re lucky to have this resource. Everyone should take advantage of it.”

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