Cook County, South Suburban College partner in hazardous waste collection site

Cook County and South Suburban College have announced a $4.6 million partnership to open a hazardous waste collection site at the South Holland school.

It would be a drop-off point for unwanted items such as motor oil, fluorescent light bulbs and household chemicals, and would create a collection site for south suburban residents, who do not have access to one, according to a news release.

The partnership includes South Suburban College and the county’s Department of Environment and Sustainability. The drop-off center, expected to open next year, will be next to the college’s Center for Hard to Recycle Materials.

That center, opened a year ago with the help of a county grant, is on the northwest side of campus and takes electronics such as television sets and computer equipment along with polystyrene foam, clothing and textiles, personal health care equipment and general household recycling materials.

At the new facility, south suburban residents will be able dispose of household cleaners and chemicals, rechargeable batteries, oil-based paints, solvents, medications, antifreeze, herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, aerosol cans and lawn, pool and hobby chemicals, according to the county.

There are no permanent sites close by for south suburban residents to get rid of items that are not supposed to be tossed in along with regular garbage pickups, according to the county. The nearest centers to the south suburbs are in Naperville, Lake County and Chicago’s North Side.

“Cook County is excited to expand our partnership with South Suburban College to ensure that residents in the Southland have access to a facility that will allow them to safely dispose of hazardous materials,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a news release.

“This partnership creates a new (hazardous household waste) facility and will also provide our students opportunities to become the next generation of sustainability leaders through internship and continued education opportunities,” Lynette Stokes, the college’s president, said in the release.

Students at the school work at the Hard to Recycle Center, which they also helped assemble last year in advance of Earth Day.

The hazardous waste collection point was announced by the county and college officials on Earth Day this past Monday.

“This facility is critical to residents in the south suburbs because we don’t currently have a facility that allows us to properly dispose of household hazardous waste which can lead to serious health conditions and environmental impacts, negatively affecting a region with historically high pollution and open dumping issues,” Stokes said.

The county is providing funding for the collection facility as well as the existing recycling center through American Rescue Plan Act funding.

The Center for Hard to Recycle Materials is meant to divert from landfills those items that don’t fit the typical parameters of household recycling programs, and its location is meant to recognize that curbside recycling isn’t universal in the south suburbs.

Along with the typical household recyclables such as paper, cardboard, glass and metals, the site accepts clothing, bedding, drapes and shoes. Small kitchen appliances, desks, upholstered chairs, tools and hardware are also being collected.

Wheelchairs, mobility scooters, crutches and walkers will also be accepted, and those items will be cleaned up and offered to homeless shelters and thrift stores, according to the county.

Plastic foam packaging such as what accompanies furniture and appliances is collected, melted down and formed into new uses, according to the county.