You’d think this place is giving away money.

To the contrary. It’s the customers who are giving things away — hazardous things they no longer want in their garages or houses.

The Household Waste Recycling Center in Stow is a community jewel, a way to help Summit Countians avoid the temptation to stick hazardous waste in the trash or pour it out in their yard or in storm sewers.

Problem is, the facility is only open for 17 weeks, from June through September, and, even worse, only one day a week — Thursday, a workday, for just five hours (2-7 p.m.).

And every time I’ve been there, it has been overrun with customers.

When I took a big box of creepy stuff there a couple of weeks ago, I arrived at 2:05 p.m. and didn’t work my way to the front of the massive line until 2:36.

It was even worse for those arriving later: On my way out, I counted 57 vehicles waiting in a line that stretched all the way out to the road. Those drivers must have had to wait at least 45 minutes.

The place is popular for good reason. It will accept an amazing array of stuff, from gasoline, oil and antifreeze ... to weed killer, insecticide and pesticide ... to paint thinner, varnish and oil-based paint.

The center will even take asbestos if it is wetted, double-bagged, sealed and less than 3 feet long or wide. No wonder the people who take the stuff out of your car wear serious hazmat gear.

To see a complete list of accepted materials, go to www.summitreworks.com/hhw/

These folks won’t take latex-based paint, because if you prepare it right — essentially, drying it out by leaving the lid off or mixing in sawdust, kitty litter or shredded paper — it is harmless and you can toss it in with your regular trash.

The recycling center is easy to get to. It’s off Graham Road immediately east of state Route 8. But I cringe to think how much pollution is generated by 50 or 60 cars idling at once, not to mention the time lost by customers.

Given the popularity of the place, why not open it more than one day per week?

Well, according to Marcie Kress, the executive director of Summit Reworks, people like me wouldn’t run into nearly as much traffic if we went during off hours.

She reiterates a tip on the website that says, “Historically, we’ve found that between 3:30 and 5:30, fewer residents arrive.”

That’s not always convenient, but at least we’ve been forewarned.

Here’s another warning that’s not on the website but should be noted: Do not wait until September to make your visit.

“I can tell you that September, the end of the operating season, is our absolute busiest time of year,” she says. “And in those first two hours [of any Thursday].

“That is a dynamic we are constantly trying to tell our residents about because we want to run an efficient facility. We want the cars to be spread out over those operation hours.”

Kress has been at this since 1996, so she knows the drill.

Traffic flow is closely tracked, and last year she found that about 60 percent of the residents arrived during the first two hours.

The center served 4,710 vehicles last year, an average of 262 per Thursday, which was a 10 percent jump from the previous year.

The first three Thursdays this year drew 315, 284 and 246 customers.

The cost for running the center is expected to be about $270,000 to $290,000 this year. It is based on volume. For every ton of trash generated in Summit County, Reworks gets $5, which is paid by landfills and transfer stations. About $2.80 of that goes toward running the recycling center.

The work itself is done by a contractor, EnviroServe, a national company with an office in North Canton.

So this summer do yourself — and the rest of us — a favor. Carve out a little time to round up hazardous stuff you’re not going to use and trot it off to Stow.

But remember: In this case, the early bird catches the fumes.

Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or bdyer@thebeaconjournal.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31