Whether residents are rotating out seasonal items or purging a basement, an annual spring cleaning is a good time to reevaluate what’s taking up extra space in a home.

But after creating a pile of stuff, it’s not as easy as throwing everything in the trash. Those cleaners under the kitchen sink might do more harm than good in the dumpster, and garbage haulers often won’t accept large appliances or electronics.

That’s where local waste facilities comes in.

Agencies like the Carver County Environmental Center in Chaska, and the Scott County Household Hazardous Waste Facility in Jordan are the places to go for residents unsure how to dispose of items properly. Carver County alone receives millions of pounds of materials a year, including 300 tons of household hazardous waste.

What in a typical household constitutes hazardous material?

More than you’d think, said Bill Fouks, Carver County Environmental Center supervisor. From drain cleaners to aerosol cans, common household items cause a lot of harm to the environment if not properly disposed of. Chemicals safe for countertops can create a toxic mix in landfills and waste centers, harming people processing items and the land where the products end up, he added.

But don’t just think small. Both Carver County and the Scott County Household Hazardous Waste Facility, which also serves surrounding counties like Carver and Washington, also accept “problem materials," like appliances, electronics and tires — things garbage haulers won’t pick up and thrift stores can’t accept.

“We’re really a collection point: the first-stop drop for folks who can’t get rid of things through garbage collection,” Fouks said.

Once the materials are sorted by employees into subcategories, Carver County ships them out for disposal at waste sites around the country, which safely dispose of trash using methods like neutralizing acids and bases, or incinerating at waste-to-energy plants.

Larger items like refrigerators and televisions are sent to other recycling centers. (One of the most common materials is cardboard, because of the increase in online shopping, Fouks said, but bringing it to the center isn’t necessary — most garbage haulers pick up cardboard and will provide a recycling bin free of charge if requested, he said.)

Pre-COVID, some household products in good condition screened by staff also went to the Reuse Room in the Environmental Center, where residents could check out hundreds of products and take what they needed, free of charge. 

If a resident has hazardous materials, or needs to dispose of a large item, see if you need an appointment (Scott County, yes; Carver County, no).

Then, here’s what to do:

1. If applicable, check the label for warnings like flammable, corrosive, ignitable and reactive material. It’s the easiest way to tell if the chemical needs proper disposal. The facilities accept “legacy waste," so bring everything in, no matter how old. If it’s a larger item, make sure the facility accepts it (For example, Carver County takes mattresses, but Scott County doesn’t).

2. Assess potential fees. All household hazardous waste is free to drop off in Scott and Carver counties, but appliances, mattresses (if accepted) and televisions cost $10 to $35. Scott County only accepts cash, Carver County takes cash and cards. 

3. Load up your car properly; separate by category; avoid plastic bags; and secure the containers. There have been many instances where a trunk is opened, only to find everything has spilled and mixed together, Fouks said.

Categorizing products in boxes or totes you don’t want back is ideal. Remember to bring someone to help unload heavy items.

WHAT'S ACCEPTED

Here’s an overview of what each center accepts. 

Scott County

Free: Bicycles, cardboard, small electronics, fuels and solvents, household hazardous waste (automotive, pool, yard and household chemicals, pesticides, aerosol cans) paint, plastic bags, some scrap metals, sharps (in a proper container), shredded paper.

With a fee: Appliances, large electronics, some scrap metals, tires.

Not accepted: Asbestos, carpet, furniture, glass, mattresses, medical waste and medications, porcelain toilets and sinks, window glass, brush and yard waste.

Carver County

Free: Batteries, cardboard, some electronics, fuels and solvents, household hazardous waste (automotive, pool, yard and household chemicals, pesticides, aerosol cans), paint, plastic bags, some scrap metal, sharps (in a proper container).

With a fee: Appliances, bicycles, some electronics, mattresses, tires.

Not accepted: Carpet, ceramics, furniture, medical waste and medications, shredded paper, styrofoam, trash, window glass, brush and yard waste.

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