Welcome to the La Crosse County Household Hazardous Materials (HHM) Facility! Since 2003 we have operated a permanent, year-round collection program. Approximately 8,000 area residents utilize the HHM facility annually representing 15% of La Crosse County’s households. This is exceptional among comparable programs. We also serve agricultural operations, businesses and non-profit organizations. In total, the HHM program collects and manages over 500,000 pounds of materials annually.
But our story begins much earlier. In the mid-1980’s, forward-thinking, La Crosse area leaders formed a group called the Clean Sweep Household Hazardous Waste Task Force and identified the importance of community hazardous waste collection efforts. Several local agencies became involved in the planning process including the La Crosse County Solid Waste Department. At that time, single day events were considered most practical due to infrastructure limitations, funding shortages and limited certified hazmat vendors.
A tremendous amount of collaboration was necessary to bring an event to fruition, but finally, on May 9, 1987, the first La Crosse County hazardous waste “Clean Sweep” collection took place on Isle La Plume. Over a six-hour span, 114 customers dropped off 2,439 pounds of materials. Additional single-day events were held over the years, but costs were high, especially in comparison to the amount of materials collected.
In 1990, the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors established the Solid Waste Citizen’s Advisory Panel to review and provide input to regional waste management practices. Part of the panel’s review included recommendations on managing household hazardous waste. Funding issues remained a major barrier to program implementation; however, these efforts set the wheels in motion for bigger things to come.
In September of 2001, the Household Hazardous Waste Advisory Panel (HHWAP) to the La Crosse County Solid Waste Committee recommended the formation of a Household Hazardous Materials (HHM) program to be housed in a permanent facility at the La Crosse County landfill complex. The HHWAP envisioned a program that would “effectively remove toxic and dangerous household hazardous wastes from the waste stream in a cost-effective manner that is satisfactory to the users and adapts to meet the changing needs of the county residents.”
With overwhelming support from La Crosse County stakeholders as well as a significant contribution from Xcel Energy, this vision became a reality with the opening of a permanent HHM facility in the fall of 2003. Since then, the La Crosse County Solid Waste Department has continuously operated the HHM program buoyed by the generous support of La Crosse County and its municipalities, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection grant funding and small business contributions.
Responding to the evolving needs of the community, the HHM program has expanded the wastes it accepts from strictly chemicals to now include electronics (e-waste), infectious waste, non-controlled medications, refrigerant-containing appliances and universal waste. While assuring proper disposal of hazardous waste is the highest priority, much of the material accepted by the HHM program can be beneficially used. In fact, over 75% of collected materials are diverted from landfilling with most of these items being reused, recycled or utilized as an industrial fuel. The end result is that these materials no longer present a threat to human health and the environment in accordance with the vision and expectations set forth by community stakeholders.