Archived Story

Recycling goes so well, truck takes longer

Published 10:02am Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Column: Solid Waste Officer, by Randy Tuchtenhagen

With statistics coming in about the new single-stream recycling program, we have the numbers, and they look really, really good.

The total numbers for all residential recycling have increased more than 50 percent and the driver reports that in some neighborhoods many new people have started recycling.

Randy Tuchtenhagen
Randy Tuchtenhagen

A new problem has developed. The truck used to do an entire route and return to the recycling center. Now there is so much curbside recycling being collected, the truck must be driven out to the recycling center and emptied before the route can be finished. This means added time on the route and a different time of day we might expect the truck to arrive.

Please be patient and don’t call our office before noon to ask why your cart has not been emptied yet. It’s possible the truck filled to capacity and had to empty the load. Many routes finish after 4 p.m. so if you feel your cart was missed, leave it out and wait until the next morning to call the toll-free number on the cart lid. Make certain you have the cart placed on the curb before 7 a.m. as the new automated truck moves quickly from one street to the next and you could be missed if you wait.

The Community News magazine will be mailed out soon and a recycling calendar will be provided, as well as some calendar stickers so you can mark your recycling day. The 2014 hazardous waste schedule will also be published in this issue and in the Albert Lea Tribune.

My counterparts in Rice and Steele counties to the north of us have had single-stream recycling in place for more than a year. They continue to report the recycling participation in their county has stayed at a higher rate and volumes have not decreased.

Many other counties are now exploring single stream as a way of increasing recycling rates and making it easier for people to participate. Many comments we hear are, “It’s too easy to be true,” or, “It’s easier than handling the garbage.”

Anyone interested in seeing a MRF, or materials recovery facility, in operation should go to YouTube and type the words “single stream recycling.” Our vendor, Waste Management, has quite a few YouTube videos, but there are also others to watch. These MRFs are not the ones where our recyclables go, but you can get an understanding of how the processing of recycling material is accomplished.

Our MRF in the Twin Cities is more automated than you’ll see in these examples. Fewer people and more automation doing the sorting.

The videos talk about using eddy current for sorting aluminum, vacuum sorting to remove light objects and contamination like plastic film wrap, optical scanners and magnets. It’s pretty impressive and is a great resource for anyone who wants to teach children or adults about the new technology our recycling program uses and how we can do it better or easier.

There are still a huge number of people putting plastic bags into the recycling bins. Please stop it. Bags are contamination. They need to be taken to the grocery store, Walmart or Shopko for recycling or just dump them and take back into the house for re-use.


Randy Tuchtenhagen is the Freeborn County solid waste officer.