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Currently the only sign advertising Kandiyohi County’s recycling center is a black and white placard that’s about 18 inches high attached to a post in the boulevard opposite Bill Taunton Stadium on the city’s southwest side. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

"We Recycle": Energizing Kandiyohi County, Minn., recycling program

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WILLMAR — Being located right across the street from the Bill Taunton Stadium where the popular Willmar Stingers play baseball should serve as a neon sign directing people to your front door.

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Yet Jay Baker said he gets "so many calls" every week from people asking where the county's recycling facility is located.

Those callers all say they know where the Stingers play ball but claim to have never seen the large brown recycling center that's on the other side of the road.

"They don't even know we're here," said Baker, who oversees the county's recycling and household hazardous waste program. "That's a bad thing."

The county's recycling committee is hoping to change that.

Working with a marketing consultant, the county introduced a new logo last week at the Kandiyohi County Fair that proclaims "We Recycle," which will be part of a bigger campaign to increase the number of people who recycle and increase the amount of materials coming to the recycling center and staying out of the landfill.

"We want people to be aware we're here and use the facility," said Baker.

One way to do that is to erect a large sign, possibly with an electronic message board, near the center in Willmar.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl floated the proposal to the County Board of Commissioners last week. While there's a consensus on the board that action is needed to increase recycling, Commissioner Roger Imdieke questioned the cost of an electronic sign.

Kleindl said a stationary sign with the new logo can be put up now and the electronic component added later. There is money in the budget for promoting recycling, he said.

Currently the only sign advertising the recycling center is a black and white placard that's about 18 inches high attached to a post in the boulevard.

"It's a teeny, tiny sign," said Baker, in an interview.

If the county wants to increase recycling, they may have to spend some money to promote it, he said.

"We need to do something different because we're not getting the results we want," said Baker.

Besides exploring promotional aspects, the recycling committee is also in the early stages of conducting a survey to find out how many people recycle in the county and how they recycle.

The county provides curbside pickup of recycling in some communities, like Willmar, by using sentence-to-service crews.

Private garbage haulers also pick up residential recycling, although not all of them provide that service to their rural customers.

For the last couple decades the county has had drop-off sheds in cities throughout the county where people can deposit recyclables. The items are picked up by sentence-to-service crews and taken to the recycling center in Willmar, which is staffed primarily by clients of West Central Industries.

Baker said he doesn't care how recyclable materials are collected, just as long as they're not going to the landfill.

"It doesn't make sense to fill a big hole in the ground and fill it with things that can be recycled," he said. "We just want to divert the materials from the landfill."

The committee is also interested in hearing ideas from the public about ways to increase recycling.

Baker said the idea of being able to mix garbage with recycling that's then separated at the landfill is a popular request. But he said it's also a very expensive option that would also likely jeopardize jobs for West Central Industries' clients

Baker said the county is just at the beginning stage of exploring options for recycling and will be implementing a new program for recycling old child car seats yet this year. That program is being done in partnership with McLeod County.

The Kandiyohi County Recycling Center and Household Hazardous Waste Facility is located at 1400 22nd St. S.W. in Willmar.

For more information call: 320-231-3487.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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