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Thousands of pounds of toxic waste saved from landfills on free hazardous waste collection day

Park City Sunrise Rotary volunteers unload toxic waste from Summit County vehicles for Hazardous Waste Day.
Kristine Weller
Park City Sunrise Rotary volunteers unload toxic waste from Summit County vehicles for Hazardous Waste Day.

Hazardous Waste Day was Saturday and around 500 Summit County residents participated.

Recycle Utah and Park City Sunrise Rotary host Hazardous Waste Day twice each year. The free event allows all Summit County residents to drop off items like paint and motor oil to keep toxic chemicals and heavy metals out of landfills.

Recycle Utah Executive Director Carolyn Wawra said hazardous chemicals and metals shouldn’t go into landfills, because they leach toxins into ground and drinking water and contaminate it.

“This is like the nastiest stuff, you know, you put like, a quart of oil in the water and it contaminates you know 83 dumpsters of water,” she said.

On Saturday, Sunrise Rotary and Recycle Utah volunteers collected hazardous materials like paints, motor oil, batteries, gasoline, household cleaners, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals and electronic waste from about 500 vehicles. Scott van Hartesvelt, a Sunrise Rotary member, said volunteers collected thousands of pounds of garbage.

“It is really humbling to see the amount that comes through on any particular day when we're doing this,” he said.

In 2023, the two days of waste collection yielded 35,000 pounds of paint, over 1,700 pounds of batteries, 93 pounds of light bulbs, 1,100 pounds of household cleaners and 188 pounds of pharmaceuticals.

Wawra said about half of the waste they collect is incinerated and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates incineration. Other hazardous waste can be reused or repurposed. For example, all collected oil can be reused and bicycles will be refurbished or broken down into parts through the Bicycle Collective.

Mattresses were collected for $20 each to be repurposed by a company called Spring Back Utah. Jeff Jewett from Spring Back said the company deconstructs mattresses layer by layer to recycle them. The foam part of a mattress is used to make carpet pads.

“If you've ever seen your carpet pad looks like a bunch of different types of foam that's why, it's made with recycled foam primarily,” Jewett said. “All the metal, the springs and coils in mattresses and box springs, is made into rebar and goes right back into our Utah road construction.”

Wawra said the event usually costs around $30,000 as toxic waste is expensive to dispose of. However, donations and Recycle Utah partners like Park City Municipal, Summit County and Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District help cover costs. Volunteers also make the event possible.

The next Hazardous Waste Day where Summit County residents can dispose of toxic waste for free is September 28. Locals can also go to the Summit County Landfill to dispose of hazardous waste.