Ramsey County, Washington State prepares to start organic recycling program-Twin Cities

Newport’s garbage disposal facility is killing an environmentally-friendly dragon-the landfill.

The plant is operated by Ramsey County and Washington County and only sends 10% of its waste to landfills each year. Moreover, next year, the Ramsey/Washington Energy Recycling Plant will spend $43 million to expand and will launch the state’s largest organic food waste recycling program.

The factory is the product of cooperation between the two counties in their efforts to improve environmental practices over the years. But not everyone is cheering.

Some environmentalists worry about the side effects of the plan. The plant achieves its landfill goals by burning waste in the incinerators of Red Wing and Mankato.

“This is not something we should follow,” said Lynn Hoffman, co-president of Eureka Recycling, which manages recycling for St. Paul. Hoffman said that the factory’s aggressive approach failed to solve the bigger problem—consumers and manufacturers produced too much waste.

“Our biggest concern is that this is not a vision. It is not that ambitious,” Hoffman said.

Country guide

The factory manager said that they are doing what the state requires them to do. The guidelines established in 1989 stated that landfills are the worst place for waste. State officials prefer waste disposal-in order-reduction, reuse, recycling, composting and incineration. They hope that the landfill will be the last resort.

Nikki Stewart, senior environmental resource manager in Washington County, said that the expansion of the plant is in progress. It is estimated that 30,000 tons of organic matter can be recovered each year, as well as 34,000 tons of other recyclables.

Stewart said she is proud of the plant’s environmental record-last year, 445,000 tons of garbage were processed, 14,000 tons of metal recovered, and 1,250 households were used to generate electricity. The plant only sends 10% of its waste to landfills, which is about one-third of that of other metropolitan counties.

Peder Sandhei, chief planner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Bureau, said that only organic recycling can improve this record.

Organic matter accounts for about one-third of most municipal waste

Organic matter accounts for about one-third of most municipal waste. This is why the recovery of organics can increase the state’s overall recovery rate, which has remained at around 44% for many years.

Stewart of Washington County said the Newport plant has benefited from the partnership between the two counties.

By pooling resources, the counties purchased a private processing plant for USD 24 million in 2016. Another US$15 million is spent on various improvements, and now another US$43 million will be invested in organic recycling operations. Organic additions brought the total to $82 million-an amount far beyond the scope of most single county waste programs.

Supporters also applauded the Newport Plan, because these counties voluntarily spend money-this is not required.

Most other counties spend much less because state guidelines are recommendations, not rules.

10% landfill rate

According to a survey conducted by MPCA in 2019, 9 counties put more than 80% of their waste in landfills. The recovery rate in most counties is between 10% and 30%.

The Ramsey/Washington partnership has achieved a 10% landfill rate mainly through the processing plant in Newport.

The plant is launching the most powerful waste management program in the state, recycling and reusing waste in four ways-curbside recycling in separate bins, metal recycling at the factory, incineration for power generation, and organic recycling.

It will widen the gap between counties that hardly recycle. “Each county has its own road map,” said Sandhei of MPCA.

Environmentalists’ disagreement

Environmentalists disagree about the Newport factory. Paul Austin, head of the non-profit organization Minnesota Conservation Organization, supports any form of organic recycling. Aaron Klemz of the Minnesota Environmental Advocacy Center said he likes the idea of ??organic recycling. He said he was involved in Fridley’s organic recycling and regularly collected compost from local facilities.

Hoffman of Eureka said she supports the goal of reducing landfill use, but questions these methods. Consumers will be required to sort their organic matter into compostable bags and throw them away so they can be removed from the waste stream at the Newport factory. Hoffman said that this plan may go wrong.

“How many bags will break?” she said. “How many will be thrown in the trash?”

She predicts that many customers will mistakenly throw the bags together with cans and paper into the recycling bin.

“They are all recycled. This would be an easy mistake to make,” Hoffman said. Moreover, having three recycling methods requires multiple miles of truck transportation, she pointed out.

Fuel is also used in waste-to-energy programs, where garbage is trucked to an incinerator in Mankato 90 miles, or Red Wing’s 50 miles to an incinerator. Incinerators have been criticized for emitting air pollution and producing ashes equivalent to a quarter of the weight of burned waste, which are put into landfills.

This landfill material is not counted in Newport’s total because it is technically produced in other counties.

Expected 40% participation rate

Stewart, the co-manager of the Newport plant, said that after a five-year start-up period, the participation rate of the organic project is expected to reach 40%.

This will include Ray McCoy of Sao Paulo. On Friday, he threw away excess vegetables in the garden of the Midway Collection Center. “I harvested them, but I didn’t have a chance to eat them,” he said.
McCoy likes the idea of ??a new organic recycling system. “It makes a lot of sense to me,” he said when the spoiled potatoes were thrown into the trash can with a plop.

This does not include Louise Watson.

She said that she herself composted her food scraps in the backyard, so she would not put them in plastic bags. Watson, a board member of Sustainable Stillwater, said she believes the plan sends a confusing message about environmental priorities.

Moreover, she said that the organic recycling program did not solve a more pressing problem-the proliferation of consumer plastics.

“This is more important locally than food scraps,” she said. “How much’we have to do’? How do we know what to do?”

Watson pointed out that her comments are her own and do not reflect sustainable Stillwater.

Eureka’s Hoffman said that a more fundamental issue is to reduce the amount of waste generated.

She wants to know how much the US$82 million will affect plans to reduce upstream waste flows-manufacturers and consumers throw away waste.

“If you invest more in reuse,” Hoffman said, “you will get more in return.”

Decompose organic waste

For anyone who throws away anything in Ramsay and Washington County, change is coming. The expected questions are listed here, and the answers are provided by the Ramsey/Washington Center for Recycling and Energy, MPCA, non-profit environmental organizations, and industry websites.

What is organic waste?

Any biodegradable waste-directly from animals or plants. Most of them are food scraps in the kitchen. It also includes non-recyclable paper such as napkins, paper towels and egg cartons.

How will the organic recycling program work?

Customers will order special bags with free shipping. They are made of decomposable thick tear-resistant plastic. They put food scraps in bags, tied the bags, and then threw them in the trash can.

In the trash can, really?

this is correct. The machines at the Newport plant will remove the bags from the waste stream.

and then?

It will be trucked to the composting plant to turn organic waste into fertile soil.

how much is the cost?

One more dollar per month. This applies to all waste removal customers in Washington and Ramsey Counties. Through your taxes, you have paid $82 million for a processing plant in Newport.

What if the customer has already recycled?

Organic matter accounts for about one-third of the waste in landfills. Recycling it helps the environment in many ways.


It reduces the amount of waste entering landfills, reduces the production of the greenhouse gas methane, and produces a useful by-product-compost.

Do residents have to do this?

Do not. This is voluntary, just like recycling programs for metals, plastics, and paper. The organic recycling program will begin in 2022.

Can customers still compost in their backyard?

Yes. In fact, we encourage you to do this-it saves money and fuel, and creates fertile soil. But the new organic plan is a backup because most consumers cannot or will not maintain compost.

Will these things be incinerated?

Will not. Only the shredded waste from the factory will be sent to the incinerator. The garbage was burned in Mankato and Red Wings to generate electricity.

Is yard waste organic?

Yes, but it is handled separately. Yard waste—mainly leaves and wood raked from felled trees—is dragged to a yard dump instead of a landfill. The organic recycling program will not affect yard waste.

What if I cannot access the program?

Experts say that any of the following methods is preferable to throwing away organic waste:

  • Create less. Don’t waste food.
  • By throwing it in the composting area for composting, the food residue will eventually become fertile soil.
  • Take it to an organic recycling center and discard it. Drop off stations are scattered around the metropolitan area and are operated by cities and counties.

For locations, regulations, and registration, please visit the county or city website, including Ramsey County.us and co.washington.mn.us.

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