Earth Week 2023: Household Hazardous Waste
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Do you have used batteries, lightbulbs, electronics, paints, or cleaning supplies at home, waiting to be disposed? If so, you may want to pay a visit to Household Hazardous Waste (HHW).
In Saint Joseph County, Indiana, there are two locations: one in South Bend and one in Mishawaka. These centers can be used by all residents in Saint Joe County. If you live outside of the county, there are additional HHW facilities across Michiana.
HHW centers collect items that are hazardous to the environment if thrown away in the trash and taken to local landfills.
In addition to keeping items out of the landfill, HHW collects semi truckloads full of collected items, and sends them to recycling centers across the Midwest, so your discarded items are actually getting a new life.
Ben Carson is a Supervisor at HHW and works as the Educator for the center. Part of his work is educating the public on how to use the facility correctly, to avoid contaminating the recycling.
“We in Saint Joseph County have a fourteen percent contamination rate,” Carson explained. “Fourteen percent of what we put in our recycling bins is not recyclable through our program.”
The goal is to have a contamination rate of 5% or less.
Items you can recycle here include: electronics, batteries, lightbulbs, paints and stains, cleaning supplies, lawn and garden chemicals, and car fluids. The facility also had a drop off location for excess curbside recycling items (glass, aluminum, paper, cardboard, plastic). Secure document shredding is also offered at the South Bend location. See the full list of accepted items here.
Items you cannot recycle here include: styrofoam, furniture, clothing, organic materials (grass, leaves), trash, medical waste (needles, prescriptions).
Bring any items you’d like to recycle loose. Do not place them in a bag. This will help the recycling process move quickly.
To drop off your materials, simply drive into the gated area, follow signs, and an employee will meet you at your car. They will take the items from your car, place them on a cart, and then take the into the warehouse to be sorted, while you are on your way.
When the facility has a large supply of items, they will be shipped to recycling centers.
“We’re kind of lucky in the Midwest to have a lot of outlets for these things,” Carson shared. “Electronics go to Indianapolis. Light bulbs go up to Wisconsin. A lot of our paint goes to Ohio. Hazardous flammables end up right here in Northwest Indiana to be disposed of properly.”
In 2022, roughly 1.6 million pounds of products went through this facility.
Carson is passionate about educating the public on how to use this facility, so the number of items collected for recycling continues to grow.
“Last year, we had just over 16,000 visitors, not unique visitors, we have a lot of repeat customers,” he mentioned. “Just between South Bend and Mishawaka, we’re not getting everyone, and we can certainly have room for more people to use us.”
If you’d like to take advantage of these services, you can find hours and location for the South Bend and Mishawaka locations here.
“Earth Day is a great opportunity, a great reminder that we can do a little bit, and we’re not asking for perfection,” said Carson. “Bring what you can in. If you find little bits, bring it int as you find it, and that way it doesn’t pile up and become a nuisance to you.”
Carson is available to speak to classes or students groups to speak about recycling resources and sustainability. You can reach out to him by phone at 574-235-9971.
If you live outside of Saint Joseph County, but are interested in using a HHW facility, here are options available to you.
Berrien County: Residents (must present ID) can use HHW facility in Kalamazoo County for free. There are various recycling events in Berrien County throughout the year. Find a list here.
Cass County: There is a recycling event on April 26. Call Cass County Administrator’s Office at 269-445-4420 for questions.
Saint Joseph County: There is a Household Hazardous Waste collection on May 3. Call 269-467-5533 for questions.
Search county by county for Indiana facilities available to you using this map.
Starke County: Yearly HHW collection event is Saturday, May 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. CDT, located at the Recycle Center at 3835 E. 250 N. STE. B, Knox, IN 46534. Call 574-772-4401 for more info.