Recycling ... Earth Day: Doing the right thing in Willmar, Minn.
WILLMAR — Kathy Krause was unloading a car full of recyclables recently at the Kandiyohi County Recycling Center.
Neatly separated and sorted, the rural Willmar woman deposited bags of glass, plastic and paper items into the large outdoor collection bins.
“It’s good for the environment,” said Krause, when asked why she recycles.
With a grin she admits that encouragement from her children — laced with a bit of guilt that only a child can deliver to a parent — was also a factor in getting her to take action and begin recycling nearly 18 years ago.
“My kids put the guilt trip on me,” she said. “And I want to make earth more inhabitable for my grandchild. That’s why I recycle.”
Having a trunk and backseat filled with recyclables is one way she knows she’s making a difference. Seeing how little household garbage her family puts at the end of the driveway is more proof.
According to the Recycling Association of Minnesota, the average American throws away about 4½ pounds of garbage every day.
Most of that ends up in landfills, like the 80-acre Kandiyohi County landfill located north of Willmar off U.S. Highway 71.
County officials estimate that if the current flow of garbage continues, that space will be filled up in about 40 years.
Recycling more and landfilling less will help extend the life of the facility and delay implementation of other costly methods of garbage disposal, like incineration, said Jeff Bredberg, Kandiyohi County environmental services director.
Bredberg, who said the amount of garbage is expected to increase over the years as the county grows, estimates that 4,000 to 6,000 tons of waste is currently diverted from the landfill every year because of recycling efforts of residents and business owners.
It’s a figure he’s pleased with but said it needs to improve.
“The recycling program we have is going very well. It’s just an issue of getting more people involved,” said Bredberg.
An advisory committee has been stewing over ways to educate and encourage more recycling in the county, he said.
Educate and encourage
Jay Baker, who oversees the county’s recycling and household hazardous waste programs, figures that 30 to 35 percent of what can be recycled in the county actually is recycled.
That means 65-70 percent of what can be recycled is going to the landfill.
Baker said he wants to get out the message that recycling is “the right thing to do” and that it will save individuals money by paying less for garbage pick-up and county taxpayers will save money by avoiding more costly disposal methods.
The county has made efforts to make recycling easy.
In addition to the recycling center, which features a double carport and people to help carry the goods inside, there are 24-hour receptacles available in Willmar and collection sheds in towns throughout the county. There’s curb-side pickup in Willmar and other towns, and some garbage haulers even pick up recycling in rural areas.
Baker said he’s heard excuses from people who don’t recycle.
“They say, ‘well, it’s just too hard to do it.’ But I don’t really buy that,” said Baker. “People just don’t care or maybe they’re a little on the lazy side. I just don’t know. I really don’t get it.”
Bredberg said because recycling statistics are reported to the state by weight, it may look like recycling has stalled or even decreased over the years. He said that’s partly because containers that had been made from glass, like ketchup and mayonnaise jars, are now made from plastic.
Plastic weighs a lot less than glass, said Bredberg.
But considering the county now offers recycling of nearly every kind of plastic, Bredberg said there are still too many recyclable materials being treated as garbage.
Baker said it’s a “crying shame” to go to the landfill and see materials that could be recycled.
He said it doesn’t make sense to “fill up a big hole” with things that can be remade into new products.
He estimates that homeowners will reduce their garbage by “at least 50 percent” when they start recycling.
Earth Day incentive
As a way to entice residents to recycle Kandiyohi County is offering a special financial incentive for bringing in aluminum cans this week, when Earth Day is celebrated.
From this Monday through Saturday the county will add another five cents onto the per-pound price that’s paid out at the recycling center.
The price was at 42 cents a pound on Wednesday.
If that market rate holds that means the county will pay out 47 cents a pound this coming week.
“We’re just trying to get more people and more material in,” said Baker. “It does work.”
One year one individual brought in 10,000 pounds of aluminum on Earth Day.
“That’s a lot of cans,” said Baker, adding that it takes about 33 cans to make a pound.
If it takes a little extra cash to get people to begin recycling, that’s OK with Baker, who hopes that it will lead people to a lifetime of recycling for more reasons than soda can money.
“We live here. Your kids live here. Your grandkids live here. We need to take care of the earth,” said Baker. “Do the right thing.”
Did you know?
According to the Recycling Association of Minnesota, recycling isn’t only good for the environment, it’s good for the economy.
The state non-profit organization cites statistics from the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive that more 1.1 million people work at the more than 56,000 recycling and reuse enterprises, resulting in a $236 billion a year industry in the U.S.
How aluminum recycling helps Minnesota’s economy:
* Recycling aluminum saves 95 percent of the energy needed to produce new aluminum from raw materials.
* Energy saved from recycling one ton of aluminum is equal to the amount of electricity the average home uses over 10 years.
How aluminum recycling helps Minnesota’s environment:
* Aluminum is a durable and sustainable metal. More than two-thirds of aluminum ever produced is still in use today.
* In 2009, Minnesotans recycled more than 38,500 tons of aluminum. By recycling our aluminum cans, Minnesota did not have to mine for 192,500 tons of bauxite ore to make the cans from virgin materials. Using recycled aluminum to make new cans results in huge energy, water, and carbon emission savings.
How glass recycling helps Minnesota’s economy:
* Glass is infinitely recyclable with no loss to its strength, purity or quality, and unless broken, glass takes up a lot of landfill space. By substituting recycled glass for only half of the raw materials, the production waste is cut by more than 80 percent. Mining and transporting raw materials for glass produces about 385 pounds of waste for every ton of glass that’s made.
* Glass not suitable to be manufactured back into glass containers feed other industries who use recycled glass to make things like: flooring, countertops, tiles, abrasives, roadwork additives and other items.
How glass recycling helps Minnesota’s environment:
* In 2009 Minnesotans recycled more than 128,000 tons of glass.
* The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours. It also causes 20 percent less air pollution and 50 percent less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials.
How paper recycling helps Minnesota’s economy:
There are many economic benefits of paper recycling; the following are a few examples.
* In 2009 Minnesotans recycled more than 903,000 tons of paper.
* Even with recovery and recycling efforts, recyclable paper makes up more than 20 percent of Minnesota’s garbage.
How paper recycling helps Minnesota’s environment:
Recycling reduces air and water pollution, as well as conserves our natural resources.
* Recycling one ton (2000 pounds) of paper saves 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. This represents a 64 percent energy savings, a 58 percent water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution.
* Recycling the junk mail from an average Minnesotan for one year would conserve seven trees
There are several locations throughout Minnesota where plastic bottles and jugs are recycled into new pop bottles, milk containers, landscaping materials, polar fleece, carpet and plastic lumber. One of those businesses is Master Mark, located in Paynesville. Each year Master Mark uses more than 1 billion recycled plastic containers and sawdust to make lawn, garden and building supplies.
How plastic recycling helps Minnesota’s economy:
* In 2009, Minnesotans recycled over 57,000 tons of plastic; manufacturers around the state need our recyclable plastics so they can meet their demand for recycled products.
* Plastic recycling keeps bottles out of our environment, preserves biodiversity of our habitats, and reduces the need for taxpayer money to fund cleanup efforts.
How plastic recycling helps Minnesota’s environment:
* Americans buy an estimated 34.6 billion single-serving (1 liter or less) plastic water bottles each year. Almost eight out of 10 end up in a landfill or incinerator.
* Hundreds of millions of plastic bottles end up as littler on roads, beaches and in streams and waterways. Keep our state clean; recycle every plastic bottle.
Source: The Recycling Association of Minnesota