By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Even after years of working Mankato’s annual Spring Cleanup, Art Gomez still gets to see something new now and then while residents are hauling all kinds of junk to the city’s Mass Transit Building on Lamm Street.
Saturday morning’s surprise for the Waste Management employee was watching two guys with baby strollers full of scrap metal walk and roll through the gates. He described how the metal was stacked high on each stroller.
“I’ve never seen that before,” Gomez said.
Most people arrive in vans, SUVs or pickup trucks. Sometimes they have a few things, sometimes their cargo areas and truck beds are heaped full. One man pulled a huge construction trailer into the lot Saturday, backed up to the growing pile of rubbish and used the trailer’s hydraulic lift to dump hundreds of pounds of this and that.
The Spring Cleanup, which takes place from 7 a.m. to noon every Saturday in May, gives Mankato residents a one-stop place to bring most of the stuff they want out of their houses and garages. The only things not accepted are concrete, asphalt, tires, appliances, recyclables and hazardous waste.
A new addition this year was a place to drop off unused drugs. The Mankato Department of Public Safety and Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Department already have drop boxes at the dowtown Public Safety Center and the Justice Center on the east edge of town. Joe Fitzpatrick, a part-time Mankato police officer, said having the drop boxes at the Spring Cleanup gives residents another option at a time when they’re getting their cleaning done. It’s better than throwing the drugs in the garbage, where they can be found by children, or flushing them down the toilet, where they can pollute drinking water.
A licensed police officer is required to watch the boxes until they’re locked up for processing. That was Fitzpatrick’s job Saturday.
“This is the first year,” he said. “I would say, so far, we’ve had about 10 people drop things off. I think there will be more next year when people know about it.”
Gomez was working in the electronics section. He said all of the televisions, computers, stereos and other electronics that were dropped off will be trucked to the Twin Cities. The items will be dismantled and, for the most part, recycled.
Television screens are crushed, melted and made into new screens, Gomez said. Copper wires are melted down and the copper is used again. Even the plastic encasing around the electronics can be recycled. It’s far better than tossing the stuff in a garbage can and sending it all to the landfill.
“A lot of people don’t understand that and throw it all in the garbage,” Gomez said. “I drive a garbage truck five days a week and you’d be surprised what I see.”
After Tim Christiansen dropped off a television and an old Wii gaming device with the electronics crew Saturday, he moved on to the junk pile to get rid of an old hot tub cover and some other stuff. He said the convenience of bringing everything to one spot is a benefit for residents. Otherwise it could take planning, and miles of driving, to get out to the landfill and the places where electronics and metals can be recycled.
“It’s just a headache trying to find several places with several different hours during the weekday,” he said. “I think this is a great service.”
Another new benefit for Mankato residents is appliances can now be dropped off all year at Green Tech, 205 West Spring Street. The recycling business is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. There is a $7 fee per appliance, or Green Tech will arrange to pick the appliance up for a $15 fee by calling 344-1315. Green Tech also will accept up to 300 pounds per year of household electronics from Mankato residents at no cost.