Northwest Cleansweep Program

*View the 2024 Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Event Schedule (PDF)!

The Northwest Cleansweep Program has created an awareness of the dangers posed by hazardous wastes and unused hazardous materials among our constituent population. In addition to educating the public on pollution prevention and waste reduction techniques, Northwest Cleansweep provides a collection outlet for hazardous wastes that continue to be generated throughout our region and households, very small quantity generators (VSQGs), schools, municipalities, and farms have relied on the program continuing to be available.

Northwest Cleansweep Resources

The Northwest Cleansweep provides a workable, cost-effective and efficient permanent hazardous waste collection program for the region. A few of the program objectives include:

  • Provide safe regional mobile hazardous waste collections throughout the region.
  • Service all constituents – the general public, businesses, schools, farms, and municipalities.
  • Provide education on pollution prevention/source reduction strategies.
  • The Northwest Cleansweep program proposes to do the following within each of the contracted counties:
    • Operate its permanent mobile collection of hazardous wastes, serving households, businesses, farms, farm-related businesses, schools and municipalities throughout the region and to other contracted counties and Tribal Nations.
    • Operate a spring and fall milk run collection program aimed to provide collections on a year-round basis including door-to-door service for businesses, municipalities, farmers, and schools.
      Maintain and operate the Northwest Cleansweep permanent storage facility (Spooner) for hazardous wastes collected.
    • Provide members with educational support for the collection events, through the use of newspaper articles and ads, regional newsletters, radio announcements, internet web links, e-mail server lists, and other means available to participating counties.
    • Provide a regional grant application and consolidated reporting services.
    • The Northwest Cleansweep program serves the geographic region of Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor and Washburn counties, including geographic regions represented by the tribal nations of Lac du Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreilles, St. Croix, Red Cliff, and Bad River. Participating Counties contribute financially to help support the program and provide specific educational resources for their own collections. Tribal members may utilize any of the events, including county collections. Specific Tribal collection events are limited to tribal residents in an attempt to provide specific educational effort that is targeted to their community.

Other Features of the Program

Some of the typical chemicals brought in to a collection event include antifreeze, ballasts, acids, caustics, fertilizers, insecticides, mercury, oil filters, oxidizers, paint, pesticides, poisons, solvents, and water reactives. Paints and solvents generally account for nearly 60 percent of the material brought into an event. Certain items cannot be safely accepted at collection events, such as radioactive materials, explosives, freon, ammunition, or biological, infectious or medical wastes (other than pharmaceutical medications).

Businesses, farms, schools, and municipalities are encouraged to participate in the Cleansweep events. Northwest Cleansweep simply asks that these entities pre-register for collection events. Contact persons are listed on all information materials. If these groups (businesses, farms, schools, and municipalities) are unable to attend collection events or have special collection needs, Northwest Cleansweep can accommodate their needs through collection appointments, the ten-county milk run collection programs in the spring and fall (see accomplishments below), or by arranging drop-off of the hazardous wastes at the Northwest Cleansweep permanent storage facility located in Spooner, Wisconsin. These groups can arrange drop-offs at the facility all-year round.

Northwest Cleansweep Project Accomplishments

The program has recorded many accomplishments since 1995. Some of these accomplishments are noted here:

  • Northwest Cleansweep has operated over 390 collection events since its inception in 1995 and has collected over 1.6 million pounds of hazardous materials from the region since that time.
  • In 1996, the program received the Wisconsin Governors Award for Excellence in Hazardous Waste Reduction.
  • Over 65 percent of the materials collected through the collection program are recycled or reused.
  • In recent years, while focusing on the collection of Lake Superior Critical Pollutants, as designated by the Lake Superior Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP), the program collected 1,366 pounds of mercury from the region and operated mercury thermometer exchange programs at all Lake Superior Basin collection events. This program was extended to all member counties as well. Northwest Cleansweep is also a partner in a program to collect mercury from Lake Superior schools and underserved communities in other areas of the basin including the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This year, a special pilot project will be initiated for the collection of unused/unwanted pharmaceutical medications through a special grant program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Rural Development Administration. The program also features an extensive education program for households, pharmacies and medical clinics. The program will continue to provide specific mercury amalgam collections from dental offices as done during the 2007 collection season.
  • In 2001, a milk run hazardous waste collection program dedicated to servicing businesses, schools and municipalities during the fall and spring months was initiated and has collected thousands of pounds of hazardous materials from hundreds of customers since its inception. The program was designed to streamline summer collection events for households and to provide businesses, schools, and municipalities with the opportunity to dispose of hazardous materials all year long. This program now basically operates all year long. In addition, VSQGs are welcome to bring materials to the Spooner hazardous waste storage site all year long on an appointment basis.
  • Northwest Cleansweep provides valuable technical assistance via mail, e-mail, phone calls and our newly revised website to households, farms, businesses, schools, and municipalities in the region regarding the use and appropriate disposal of hazardous materials. Receptionist staff has been trained as to which questions they can sufficiently answer or which subject areas to forward on to other information sources or a Cleansweep staff member.
  • Northwest Cleansweep has provided collection services to many other municipalities in the area outside of the Planning Commission’s ten-county home region.