A new place for old waste

County hazardous waste facility opens in east Boulder

Elizabeth Miller | Boulder Weekly

After 15 years of planning and three years of compiling surplus furniture from other county offices, the new Boulder County Hazardous Materials Management Facility opened on April 20.


The hazardous materials management facility takes unused or unwanted hazardous household products for recycling or proper disposal, and in some cases, offers them free for others to pick up and use.

“It’s a state-of-the-art facility,” says David Nightingale, principal at Special Wastes Association in Olympia, Wash., author of the HHW Collection Facility Design Guide and a consultant to the Boulder County project. “It’s efficient in its operations, it’s safe for workers in that environment, and therefore it’s going to be a reasonable cost solution for the county.”


The $2.4 million facility is equipped with an energy-conserving heating and cooling system, a tank-less hot water system and low-flow plumbing. Even on the cloudy opening day, the facility was well-lit by natural light. It’s quiet, too. The predominant sound is the whoosh of the air circulation system, which keeps down air pollution and odors.

“We’re surprised at how nice it is,” says Hilary Collins, project manager for the new facility. “We’re really pleased with the amount of daylight we get in and how pleasant a place it is to work.”


She’s worked with the hazardous waste management facility in Boulder since 1992, a year after the previous facility opened. Just a few years later, she began planning this new facility. For years, she’s collected surplus office furniture from other county facilities and agencies, and equipped the new facility with surplus cabinets, shelving, tables, chairs and pallet racks used to store oil drums.

An average household, according to the per-pound use tracked by the facility’s managers, contains between three and eight gallons of hazardous materials. These materials are marked with labels that include terms like “toxic,” “corrosive,” “flammable” or “explosive.” They can include auto products, cleaning supplies, paint, household remodeling products, pesticides and gasoline.

Even fluorescent bulbs, including CFLs, contain mercury and need to be disposed of properly.

“Even though a lot of these products you think, ‘Oh, it’s just paint and oil. There’s nothing too hazardous about it.’ We actually get some quite hazardous products,” Collins says.

They’ve built the facility with explosion-proof walls in one room, and a segregated storm drain system for the parking lot to protect the nearby wetlands in the event of a spill.

“We want everybody to be safe, the customers and the staff,” Collins says.

About 5 percent of the materials brought to the facility — barely used cans of paint or pesticides, for example — are recycled for reuse. The new facility has shelves to display these free products, and Collins says she hopes the percentage of products they see getting used up instead of thrown away will increase.

The new facility replaces the Household Hazardous Waste Facility on Butte Mill Road, which operated from 1992 until it closed in December of 2010. That facility was open only half as many hours as the new facility, and, because it was mostly outdoors, had to close during bad weather.

Construction costs were carried by local communities, which also pay per pound for facility use by their residents.

The management facility sends waste to a company called Clean Harbors, which deals with that waste in a combination of landfills, incineration and recycling.

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Boulder County Hazardous Materials Management Facility 1901 63rd St., Boulder, 303-441-4800 www.BoulderCountyRecycles.org Open Wednesday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.