WILLMAR — A year into its single-sort recycling program through West Central Sanitation, Kandiyohi County is learning more about how its residents use the program and what type of changes still need to be made.

At Tuesday's meeting of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, the board approved an amendment to the contract with West Central Sanitation that it is hoped will resolve one of the biggest issues.

"One of the concerns we've been hearing is not having an overflow type of site" that residents can use if they fill up their 95-gallon recycling tub before the biweekly or monthly pickup, said Gary Geer, Kandiyohi County Environmental Services director.

By the end of the year, the county will open a recycling drop-off location for residents at the Kandiyohi County Household Hazardous Waste facility at 1400 22nd St. SW in Willmar. If needed, a second drop-off site could be opened at the Kandiyohi County Landfill in rural New London.

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"We are trying to step into it one at a time," Geer said.

West Central Sanitation will provide five 8-cubic-yard co-mingled recycling dumpsters at the Household Hazardous Waste facility. The dumpsters will be serviced three days a week for $989 per month, for a total of $11,868 per year. The drop-off site will be fenced in and gated. Hours of operation will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

If the landfill site is opened, it would cost $9,972 per year for the use and service of four 8-cubic-yard dumpsters.

"We are trying to learn, to gauge our volume," before opening the second location, Geer said.

The county will need to help pay for the recycling program, as revenue from the sale of the county's recycling and from property taxes does not cover all the costs. The 2022 budget already has the increased costs in it.

"We won't break even for the revenue of recycling. This is going to cost," said County Administrator Larry Kleindl. "We will be subsidizing these programs."

The addition of a recycling drop-off site for Kandiyohi County residents is meant to provide an overflow option if they fill up their recycling tub before the regular home pickup. Cardboard boxes are proving to be especially problematic.
Susan Lunneborg / West Central Tribune
The addition of a recycling drop-off site for Kandiyohi County residents is meant to provide an overflow option if they fill up their recycling tub before the regular home pickup. Cardboard boxes are proving to be especially problematic. Susan Lunneborg / West Central Tribune

The main goal of the drop-off site is to provide residents a place to recycle their overflow cardboard, which can quickly fill up a home's recycling tub.

"There is so much shipping, so much cardboard in our daily life, that it is the item people are struggling to get in their cart," Geer said.

The drop-off site will be for Kandiyohi County residents only. Commercial and apartment complexes will still need to pay for their own recycling pickup with a private hauler. One of the reasons the county wants the drop-off sites located where there are staff on hand is to watch for wrongful dumping, as well as to keep the site clean.

"We are trying to be good neighbors," Kleindl said.

The more residents recycle, the less trash that ends up in the county landfill, which extends the life of the facility.

"We are trying to provide more services in the most effective way and build in some flexibility" as recycling continues to evolve, said Commissioner Corky Berg.

While waiting for the new drop-off site to open, there is an option residents can use now to create more space in their recycling containers.

"If they are not breaking down their cardboard, that may be an additional problem," said Commissioner Rollie Nissen. "If they simply broke down every piece of cardboard they throw in," there may be slightly more room.