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Woodbury's pick-up (and drop-off) joint

Teri Doran picks up some free paint at the Washington County Environmental Center last Tuesday.1 / 2
Washington County Environmental Center workers pick up some recyclables before they take the materials to the sorting room.2 / 2

The phrase "One man's trash is another man's treasure" holds true at the Washington County Environmental Center.

Located at the intersection of Bailey Road and Cottage Grove Drive in Woodbury, the center has been seeing a steady increase of hazardous waste, recyclables and electronics since it opened three years ago.

With its own little store called "the free product room," the center sees a line-up of people once the doors open for the week on Tuesday.

"They get territorial," program coordinator Adam Frederick said.

Whether customers are looking for paint or cleaning products, the process doesn't cost a thing.

"The gallon of paint that I don't want might just be the right color for you," program manager Jeff Travis said.

In 2012, the Washington County Environmental Center saw about 34,300 participants and accepted a total of 350,000 pounds of waste, according to program coordinators.

In a drive thru manner, participants take their cars full of old televisions, printers, fax machines and batteries to the back of the building where workers pick them up and haul them inside for sorting.

Used oil, of which the center receives about 1,000 gallons a week, provides a monetary benefit of $1.25 a gallon by vendors who use it to make asphalt.

While some materials are taken to hazardous waste incinerators, 85 percent of what the center receives is either reused, recycled or taken to Amazon Environmental, which makes blended paint products.

The center also provides an opportunity for businesses that miss curbside recycling days. Anything from plastic bags to paper to real estate signs can be taken there.

"One time a pet store brought bags of cedar chips," Frederick said.

Last year, the Environmental Center began accepting sharps and needles in conjunction with Washington County's prescription drug disposal program.

"There is a pretty good need out there for that," Travis said.

Although the number of people doing their due diligence in protecting the environment has increased since the center moved from Oakdale to Woodbury in 2009, program coordinators say they'd like to see more people bringing things in.

The center was built in Woodbury because it's within 20 minutes for 70 percent of Washington County residents.

"There is more population down here so it was sort of this balance of making the location convenient to most people to maximize opportunities," Travis said. "It's just a little bit of a strategic location for the program."

From 2008 to 2012, the center saw a 10 percent increase in the number of items being recycled, whether it's paint, hazardous household waste or electronics, Frederick said.

"In 2012, we received 1.6 million pounds of electronics," he added.

Travis said the Woodbury facility is bigger than Oakdale's, which basically had a closet as its free product room.

"We knew the demand was there," he said, adding that he would often hear people say "if you could put more out there I'll take it."

One of the biggest things to get donated is paint, which gets shaken and dotted with the color on the can for easy reference.

Teri Doran of Woodbury stops by the Environmental Center three to four times a year looking for paint and other supplies.

"I can take home colors and if I don't like them, I'll bring them back," she said. "And it doesn't cost me a thing."

The room doesn't only include cleaning supplies and paint, it provides one last chance to grab a book or two donated by county libraries before they have to get recycled.

"The free product room is just a gem," Travis said. "It's a win-win-win."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.