Emptying her late in-laws’ house has been hard enough on Donna Belford. But when used medicines, lotions, cleaning products, paint cans and other toxic refuse began piling up, the process seemed overwhelming.
“I didn’t know what to do with the stuff,” she said.
Her neighbor did.
“He told me about this place,” Belford said one day last week, while handing over bagfuls of half-full toiletries and old medications to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility in northeast Colorado Springs.
The center has become so popular, it’s expanding.
About 15,200 people dropped off hazardous waste from their homes last year, up from 256 customers in 2002, when the recycling center opened, said Kathy Andrew, manager of El Paso County’s environmental services division.
The facility accepts — at no charge — a slew of items from residents of El Paso and Teller counties. The list includes used motor oil, paint, aerosol cans, kerosene and diesel fuel, batteries, medical waste such as hypodermic needles, pesticides and fertilizers, ammunition, computers, monitors, VCRs and other electronics, small TVs and fireworks.
But the center began running out of space to store the recyclables, which are prepared to be removed by various companies to be reconditioned for reuse. Construction on a $558,000 expansion began in the summer and will be completed next month, Andrew said.
Beginning March 1, the center will accept various paper goods, plastics and aluminum.
By June, techno trash, such as video tapes and CDs, will join the list, and, for the first time, nonprofits and small businesses will be able to dispose of hazardous waste for a small fee.
A 30-cent fee that landfills charge for every cubic of solid waste that’s disposed — to keep hazardous waste out of dumps — is paying for the construction. The fee also funds the center’s operations. Andrew estimates the center will receive about $960,000 this year from fees.
Although disposal is free for household products, the center requests a nonperishable food donation for Care and Share Food Bank. Recyclable products that can be reused, such as paint, stain and household cleaners, are available for anyone to take for free.
The county also operates a seasonal slash/mulch program in Black Forest that accepts tree trimmings and pine cones, weekly yard waste collection at Rocky Top Resources, Christmas tree recycling and employee recycling of paper products, aluminum, batteries and cardboard.
El Paso County’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility, 3255 Akers Drive, is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays; and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the second Saturday of each month. For more information, call 520-7878.