What to recycle or trash?

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 28, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

Getting people to recycle can be as easy as simply setting out a container marked &8220;Recycling,&8221; but factors like the container location and type can influence how much trash ends up recycled instead of in landfills.

For example, office recycling can be increased simply by giving each employee a recycling can for each desk and using a single garbage can in a central location. In many offices it’s the exact opposite, and employees all have trash cans by their desks and a centrally located recycle bin.

Email newsletter signup

At events, outdoor locations and in large buildings, recycling containers should be placed next to garbage cans. Freeborn County Solid Waste Officer Randy Tuchtenhagen likened them to salt and pepper shakers, saying that they should always be placed together.

When people see a garbage can alone, they put their recycling into that along with their garbage, and when they see a recycling bin alone, they’ll put the garbage in there too, Tuchtenhagen said.

Event recycling can be especially tough. Family reunions in the park, parades and even the county fair pose challenges for organizers, who probably don’t have 50 recycling containers tucked away in their basements ready for use.

But because of a grant from the state of Minnesota, Freeborn County has access to spare recycling containers to be used for events. The county belongs to the Southeast Minnesota Recycling Exchange, an organization of eight counties meeting on a regular basis to share recycling ideas.

And Semrex’s grant allowed the eight counties to buy different types of recycling containers for event recycling, to test which containers worked best.

Plain old yellow garbage bins marked &8220;recycling&8221; got dirty fast, and heavy things like paper were tough to lift out of the container easily. The bins were also hard to stack and store, a major issue for events, and they were expensive.

Transparent containers meant to be collapsible proved nearly impossible to put together, making Tuchtenhagen decide never to collapse them again. So they were even harder to store than the yellow bins, since they couldn’t be stacked either.

Large corrugated plastic boxes were convenient, but they were so tall heavy things were impossible to dump out of the box.

The surprise winner of all the containers proved to be the apparently-fragile TV-tray type containers. All they consisted of was a lid on top of TV-tray like legs, with spots for a garbage bag to be attached to the lid. The bags can be pulled away, tied and brought to a recycling center easily, and the legs fold up to be stored in very little space. The containers do blow over easily, but putting a couple of stakes into the ground can ensure they remain upright.

Anyone interested in borrowing recycling containers for a planned event should call Randy Tuchtenhagen at 377-5186. When the event is over, the containers should be brought to the recycling center and emptied before they’re returned.