Hazardous waste products are carefully vetted before they’re put on the shelf at the Swap Shop in Gilbert’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility. (Special to GSN)

One man’s trash is truly another man’s treasure at the Swap Shop in Gilbert’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility.

Items that shouldn’t be in residents’ garbage cans and bulk trash pick-up – such as paint, pool chemicals and pesticides – end up on the shelves of the Swap Shop free for the taking.

“Having the Swap Shop in place avoids us from unnecessarily taking things to the landfill and also paying for it to be disposed of properly,” said Hondo Judd, Environmental Compliance manager.

“That’s why anybody can participate because it helps to keep all this stuff out of the landfill and it gives it a repurpose, a new life for slightly used products.”

Although only Gilbert residents can bring their household hazardous waste to the facility for free, anyone from the Valley can take as many items they want from the shop on a first-come, first-serve basis, Judd said.

The facility doesn’t accept any commercial or industrial hazardous waste.

Most of the goods on the shelves are in “newer condition and sometimes it’s brand new,” he said.

Common items dropped off include pesticides, stains, pool chemicals, automobile fuels and fluids and small camping cylinders.

“Lot of times they are full and you put them on the shelves because a lot of people enjoy camping,” Judd said.

Popular items in the shop are herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer, he added.

Latex paint in 5-gallon buckets also is a favorite as people use it for a shed or block wall. The limit per person is 25 gallons.

The big buckets of paint, though, only come in tan and gray.

“What happens is we take all of the good paint and then we mix it up and when we mix it up that is what comes out,” Judd explained. Tan and gray are the “typical colors of all the recycled paint.”

There are other paint colors available but in smaller cans.

“If someone brings in 1 gallon of paint and it’s more than half way full, that goes on the shelf because they can utilize it for one room,” he said.

Oiled-based paints, however, aren’t mixed because they’re flammable, according to Judd.

“We are not mixing it because there’s some health risk when you open it up,” he said. “And you don’t know what people put in with their oil-based paints.”

The items that never go on the shelf for the public include batteries, automotive tires and cooking oil, according to Judd.

“On occasion if someone brings in a new fire extinguisher that is not outdated, that can go on the shelf,” Judd said. “We get fire extinguishers every day we are open.

“Typically they are outdated and so (people) have to go and buy another one or get someone to come and test it. Homeowners don’t have that capability.”

All items are vetted before going out on the shelf.

“Everything is segregated,” Judd said. “We look for things. If it looks like the product, it goes on the shelf. If it looks something completely different, it’s not on the shelf.

Judd said residents who plan on dropping off items should try to keep the product in its original container.

Items that don’t make it to the shop are properly disposed of by a third-party vendor or recycled through a vendor.

The Town receives credit for the vehicle batteries and some money from the scrap metal, which helps offsets some of the waste disposal cost, Judd said.

“We’re always looking for ways to save money for the town,” he said. “And Swap Shop is one of the bigger money-savers.”

The 100-square-foot shop, as big as a medium-sized bedroom, is at the front entrance of the 4,000-square-foot facility so people don’t have to walk by hazardous materials to get to it.

People who take products from the shop have to first sign a waiver.

“Although we clean everything up, we still don’t guarantee what they’re getting is what they are getting,” Judd said. “So they’re not coming back saying, ‘we got this bad thing.’”

Judd said town staff got the idea for the shop from attending conferences. Tempe also has a shop and Mesa just opened one, he added.

Since 2007 when the facility and shop opened, the town has diverted 6.5 million pounds of material from its landfill and repurposed 80,000 gallons of latex paint.

Judd said he sees lots of repeat visitors to the Swap Shop.

A Gilbert resident said she recently went to the waste facility to drop off items and ended up leaving with paint, cleaning supplies and a fire extinguisher.

“It’s a win-win to keep it out of the landfill and put it to good use for $0,” she said on social media.

And with the weather being nice people are starting to do projects around their houses but before they rush off to the store, Judd suggested they come to Gilbert’s Swap Shop and they may find something they need for free.

He said the shop benefits the town, the public and the environment.

“I’m also in charge of storm water,” Judd said. “So with people participating in the household hazardous, waste that means these products aren’t going into their garbage cans or bulk pile.”

He said there have been residents who threw their left-over paint and pool chemicals into their trash bins or bulk pickup and the hazardous materials ended up leaking into the storm water system.

“The storm water system goes into the dry wells and park areas,” he said. “Some of the lake communities in Gilbert tie into the storm water system.

“That hazardous waste can be taken to the parks where kids play and it can be taken to the lakes and cause fish kill. So, participation in the household hazardous waste and keeping it out of the landfills and properly disposing of these items is helping our environment.”