Column: People do want recyclables, so keep your stuff coming

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 15, 2006

Randy Tuchtenhagen, Solid waste officer

Does anyone really want all that stuff?

You bet!

Right now, American aluminum, paper, plastic, steel, and glass manufacturers can’t get enough recycled material.

Part of the reason is because the Chinese economy is buying up anywhere from a quarter to a third of our recyclable materials to feed their rapid economic growth.

This situation is creating competition for your stuff &045;&160;so keep it coming!

Does all the material sent to a recycling center get recycled?

Not all of it.

Most of the material that goes into a recycling center ends up at an end market for re-manufacturing.

After being sorted by machines, there are &8220;residuals&8221;left over on the conveyor belt.

Residual includes contaminated paper, plastic that is not acceptable, Styrofoam, rocks and other &8220;stuff.&8221;

The recycling company pays close attention to those &8220;residuals&8221; because it tells us about the efficiency of the recycling center, and also about the people who recycle.

Does the recycling truck go straight to the landfill?

No.

In fact, it’s illegal for anyone to collect recyclables and then dispose of it in a landfill or burner.

Minnesota Statues Chapter 115A.95 Recyclable Materials makes this practice illegal.

There really is no good reason for a hauler to landfill your recyclables.

Waste haulers have spent considerable amount of capital to send trucks to pick up the material.

Even if market

prices for recyclable commodities are low, it still would be cheaper for a recycler to sell the material at a loss than to pay landfill disposal fees.

Some garbage trucks are

used to collect recyclables so unless you see them doing both at the same time there is no need to worry that your recycling is being landfilled.

Another way to &8220;get rid of that stuff&8221; would be to list it on the state of Minnesota Materials Exchange program.

The Materials Exchange program is a list of valuables for free or for sale that are destined for the garbage.

Common listings include furniture, siding, pallets, barrels, commercial overstock supplies, wood and chemicals.

Also listings for people looking for like items helps one person avoid the expense of disposal while providing another with a raw material for free or at a fraction of the cost.

To look into this great program call Barb at (800)

247-0015 or go to www.mnexchange.orgon your computer.

Programs to re-cap old tires, clean and repair old clothing or rebuild old computers for re-use have had little

success.

There are many reasons for this, but one thing usually surfaces as a predominant factor.

It is almost as cheap to purchase new as it is to re-furbish or re-build something for re-use. New means you have a warranty and can hold the manufacturer accountable for problems.

As our society moves away from re-build and re-manufacture, we have to solve the problem of what to do with old &8220;stuff.&8221; We often refer to this a special waste or problem wastes.

Fifteen years ago when we first started our county recycling program, we did not accept hazardous waste, clothing, many types of paper, electronics and so on.

Today we have established programs to handle those wastes and in nearly all cases we recycle, not landfill them.

Over the years our department has evolved into an information center for people to contact when they have need of &8220;special waste&8221; disposal.

It costs money to dispose of most everything, but we try to find the most economical option and one that is easy and convenient for people to use.

By doing this we encourage people to do the &8220;right&8221; thing with special wastes.

For more information go to the Freeborn County web site at www.co.freeborn.mn.usor call our office at 377-5186.

(Randy Tuchtenhagen is Freeborn County’s solid waste officer.)