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Otter Tail County plan paves way to use discarded glass to build roads

Cost of transporting glass to recycling centers cited as impetus for project

Fabric glass storage structure
A fabric and metal storage facility similar to this structure located in Glyndon, Minn., is under construction in Fergus Falls, Minn. When completed, the new facility will house stockpiled waste glass that will be used for road construction. Photo courtesy Greystone Construction.
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FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — When officials in Otter Tail County began weighing the pros and cons of continuing to collect waste glass and transporting it to the Twin Cities for recycling, it became clear as, well, glass that a better solution was needed.

Now, instead of shipping 750 tons of waste glass a year to the recycling center in the Twin Cities, the county has decided to stockpile waste glass at a facility now under construction near the Fergus Falls Transfer Station, with the new structure expected to be completed by the end of the year.

By early next year, plans call for glass stored at the facility to start being used by the county highway department to build roads as part of the road base.

The highway department and the county's solid waste department have collaborated on such an arrangement in the past, "So, we're kind of repeating an old project," said Chris McConn, Otter Tail County solid waste director.

Once enough glass is stockpiled, McConn said, officials will identify potential road projects near the glass storage facility, and the glass will be run through the crusher at the gravel pit when the gravel is made for the road projects.

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He said a rough calculation quickly reveals the potential benefits of dealing with waste glass within the county rather than trucking it east.

"If you figure that it's 20 tons (of glass) per truckload to the Cities, 750 (tons) divided by 20, that's roughly 37 trips that we save driving back and forth from the Cities," McConn said, adding that the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have advised the county on how to go about using waste glass for road construction.

The storage facility the county is building to house the stockpiled glass is a fabric, quonset-style structure similar to shelters that are used to store salt for use on roads.

McConn said part of the reason the county decided to stop shipping waste glass to the cities was the cost of that transportation when weighed against the minimal revenue received for the recyclable material.

"What we're seeing is a long-term situation, so that's what led us to this conclusion," McConn said.

Otter Tail County is letting neighboring counties know it would be open to the idea of accepting their waste glass, he said, though particulars on how that might work haven't been refined.

"I don't know if there would be a fee or not. We haven't gotten to that point. But we certainly would want to do something that would make them benefit from this, versus driving it (the glass) to the Cities," McConn said.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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