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Dane County opens new environmentally conscious recycling center | Environment

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Dane County opens new environmentally conscious recycling center
Environment, Health, News
Dane County opens new environmentally conscious recycling center

County: Managing hazardous waste can result in a huge environmental impact

As the manager of Dane County’s Solid Waste Division, John Welch is an expert on garbage -- specifically, our garbage.

From watching the county’s Rodefeld Landfill grow day after day, he’s made steps in his own life to curb his waste by composting, recycling, and conserving his way to just half a bag of garbage per week. And now he is excited about a new initiative that will cut waste county-wide. 

At 11 a.m. on Dec. 14, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and solid waste staff cut the ribbon on a new $4 million recycling center next to the landfill that will help the county save tons of hazardous and construction waste from becoming dead weight in a landfill, hazardous to the environment.

“I think there’s a misconception in society that you roll your garbage can out to the curb and it magically goes away,” Welch said. “Seeing what I see every day definitely gives you motivation to be aware of what you throw away.”

One part of the new center is occupied by the Dane County Clean Sweep program, which for years has helped residents safely dispose of hazardous materials and will start taking waste from the public in May. With the new facility, the program will be able to operate year-round and take on more waste.

Welch said toxic waste constitutes a small but critical portion of the solid waste stream.

“In the solid waste industry, we have two priorities -- it’s either volume or toxicity,” Welch said. “Although it’s a very small volume, it has a higher risk of hazardous material and toxicity. Even handling those small amounts of waste can prevent a huge environmental impact.” 

The other part of the center targets the second priority: volume. About 40 percent of the waste currently in the landfill is construction waste, according to a news release from the county executive’s office. A transfer station next to the Clean Sweep program will take in this kind of waste and send it to recycling plants.

This development comes after another major overhaul in local recycling services that began fall 2011, when the city decided to contract with Pellitteri Waste Systems instead of Waste Management. Pellitteri has already completed a new, single-stream recycling plant, and an adjoining educational facility will be open for tours in late 2013, Vice President of Sales Danielle Pellitteri said in an email.

The new Clean Sweep facility’s architecture echoes the ethic of its operations. With a porous pavement on the parking lot and recycled paint on the walls, the most striking component is the source of the building’s heat: waste. 

Welch said the division has already been capturing methane released from waste in the landfill and using it to produce electricity. The new building takes the heat off of one of the seven engines, warming the entire facility for free.

Now that it has been six months after construction began on the site, Welch said the next big step is to get the word out to businesses and residents that they can drop off construction and hazardous waste come spring. 

“For Clean Sweep, it’s [primarily] your oil-based paints, pesticides, fertilizers, mercury,” Welch said. “We get a lot of people cleaning out their garage, and they find years and years of toxic or hazardous stuff housed in the garage. We can handle that.”

Beginning May 1 at 7102 Highway 12, the new location will be open Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., and Saturday from 8a.m.-11 a.m.

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