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Commentary: Recycling right in your own community

By Jay Baker

Kandiyohi County Regional Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste Manager

Recycling is not a new concept. Kandiyohi County first started purchasing recycled soda cans on Nov. 1, 1991. This is when they were still made of tin for those that remember the discarded rusty cans that littered highways and sidewalks. In years since, we have seen major initiatives to see litter is properly disposed and ownership for taking care of our communities is shared, such as the Adopt A Highway program.

Out of the Do Not Litter campaigns grew programs to recycle. Many are familiar with the phrase “Reduce, Recycle and Reuse.” Public awareness for the importance of recycling is still gaining traction. In Kandiyohi County, we know only 30 percent of recyclable material is being recycled.

This is not enough.

Two-thirds of recyclable material is being tossed into the garbage, which finds its final resting spot in the county landfill located north of Willmar along Highway 71. We see recycling as critical to preserving our natural environment — our lakes, soil and air quality. It also reduces the tax burden on our residents, as we pay for excess consumption and waste through efforts to eliminate pollution.

Oftentimes, Kandiyohi County is approached to explain why recyclables need to be sorted. Today, our current Recycling Center in Willmar processes 4,000 tons of recyclable material annually. The center employs 15 full-time employees and provides part-time employment to 50 adults with disabilities. We are fortunate to have more capacity at both our Recycling Center and county landfill. Many counties have needed to close their landfill and construct new waste facilities with incinerators, a multimillion-dollar price tag to residents.

People who understand the value of recycling will recycle.

In September 2013, Kandiyohi County tracked the daily totals of recyclables in tons. Overwhelmingly, drop-off sites outperformed curbside collection. Around the county, we have 20 drop-off sites, including the Recycling Center in Willmar. In one week, Kandiyohi County residents brought 77,000 pounds of recycled cans, plastic, paper and glass to the drop-off sites located in Atwater, Blomkest, Hawick, Kandiyohi, Lake Lillian, New London, Pennock, Prinsburg, Raymond, Regal, Spicer, Sunburg, Svea and Willmar. In addition, we had 76,000 pounds of corrugated cardboard recycled in the same week. Due to its size and weight, residents are asked to bring their cardboard directly to the Recycling Center in Willmar for onsite crushing and baling.

Kandiyohi County would like to see this commitment to recycling continue and increase. Residents in Atwater and Willmar have the opportunity to place their sorted recyclables on the curb for collection by the county or their waste hauler. We encourage you to start a conversation with your neighbors, coworkers and family about recycling. How many recycle bins do you see in your neighborhood or at work? To get the most of our current facilities and maximum return on your investment, sorting at the time of discarding is best. Recycle bins are available by calling 320-231-3587.

Residents interested in joining the Kandiyohi County Recycling Advisory Committee are encouraged to fill out a form noting your interest at This new committee will meet at least three times a year to discuss current and future recycling options for Kandiyohi County.

Jay Baker is Kandiyohi County Regional Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste Manager