Paint cans

What Happens To All This Stuff?

How Hennepin County manages household hazardous waste and other wastes it collects.

On an annual basis, around 100,000 residents drop off waste items at
hennepin county’s drop-off facilities and collection events. Waste is
then managed by the county in the most environmentally-protective,
cost-effective method. While initially processed in the United States,
some materials, such as metal and paper, are eventually sold in
international commodities markets.

Why is this important?

Household hazardous wastes and problem materials can harm human
health and the environment if they are not properly treated, stored,
transported and disposed. By collecting and managing hazardous
materials, the county avoids the environmental and health issues
associated with them.

Examples of the potential hazards we avoid:

  • Mercury
    A potent nervous system toxin which also affects reproduction and development. Developing fetuses and young children are especially at risk from mercury exposure. Mercury vapor is easily absorbed in the lungs and is toxic at low concentrations in air. Both long-term (chronic) and shortterm (acute) exposure to mercury vapors are health threats. Because mercury does not degrade, it accumulates in the environment, reaching dangerous levels in fish, which result in
    fish consumption advisories.
  • Motor Oil
    One gallon of improperly disposed motor oil can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water.
  • Lead
    Lead enters the body when you inhale lead fumes or lead dust, or swallow something that contains lead. Your body does not have a use for lead. If you are exposed to a small amount, your body will discharge it. If you are exposed to small amounts over time or one large dose, your body may take in more than it can eliminate. Lead poisoning is a disease that occurs when too much lead builds up in the body. Lead, one of the top 25 toxic chemical pollutants in Minnesota, is also found in most fishing jigs and sinkers. This metal has an adverse effect on the nervous and reproductive systems of mammals and birds, and is poisoning wildlife such as loons and


  • Solid Waste Coordinator