Don’t toss garbage in with the recyclables

Published 12:23 pm Thursday, July 11, 2013

Column: Solid Waste Officer, by Randy Tuchtenhagen

What is recyclable and what is not? We are seeing more and more contamination in our recycling stream and for some reason people are under the impression that we will “deal with it.”

Randy Tuchtenhagen

Randy Tuchtenhagen


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I was at a rural recycling drop site recently that contained numerous plastic bags of recyclables, a horse harness, bicycle tire, children’s broken toys and Styrofoam. These items are garbage and someone pays the bill to properly dispose of them, not to mention the time it took to hand sort them out of the recycling stream by a system designed to use automated sorting.

Technology is changing as is the recycling industry. We see new features on our computers, cellphones, iPads, automobiles and every other phase of our lives.

It only stands to reason that the recycling and trash industry is also going through changes. We now see fully automated trucks dumping trash and recyclables and the recycling facilities are using automated sorting equipment with magnets and optical scanners to sort materials.

Clean pure bales of recyclables bring more money on the market and now that Freeborn County is going to receive more rebate dollars for our recyclables, it’s important to be free of contamination.

As part of our new recycling contract effective this fall, we will receive a higher rebate and a rebate on all recyclables instead of just corrugated cardboard. New markets, new technology and added recyclable materials means the more material we collect county wide, the more money we get back. It’s a win-win for both the company and our residents.

Starting immediately we are taking fiber egg cartons, but not the plastic foam. We are taking frozen food boxes such as bacon, butter, frozen food and milk fiber containers, even if they have the waxy finish on them.

Recycle, Recycle.

We now also take all No. 6 plastic containers, but no plastic foam. That means the clamshell No. 6 from strawberries or cookies, the cover on a cake or pie or the No. 6 plastic TV dinner plate.

With the addition of more food and beverage items that we now accept for recycling and the implementation of the carts that will be provided to every curbside household in November, we anticipate a significant increase in the tonnage of recycling.

But with this new system of collecting recyclables there may be the opportunity for a few people to sneak non-recyclable items and garbage into the system. The cameras on top of the recycling truck will allow the driver to see contamination and trash when the recycling carts are dumped and hopefully we’ll be able to identify and work with the residents who are abusing the system.

Recycling is so easy and saves people a lot of money so we feel confident the new and improved recycling program will help reduce the over 20,000 tons per year of trash that leaves Freeborn County to be buried in a hole in the ground.


Randy Tuchtenhagen is the solid waste officer for Freeborn County.