Community supportive over past 31 years

Published 9:37 am Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Guest Column by Randy Tuchtenhagen

With our new recycling program in place and running smooth, I am pleased to say I’m retiring April 1. I have been involved with the waste industry in some fashion for the past 31 years, as co-owner of a trash hauling company here in Albert Lea, then facility and safety manager for an international waste hauler and for the past 18 years as solid waste officer for Freeborn County.

Randy Tuchtenhagen

Randy Tuchtenhagen

I was a high school teacher for 10 years prior to all of that and may explain my emphasis on education, advertising and promoting our programs. My family origins include some of the original settlers in Freeborn County, and I feel privileged to have lived and worked here.

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We have come a long way with our recycling program since its inception in 1989. We have added more plastic container numbers to the list of acceptable materials, added the shiny inserts from newspapers and magazines, and now accept almost any paper product made from wood pulp.

A huge expansion of our recycling program. And on top of that, the annual cost has increased only $6 per year. What a bargain!

In rural areas we used to send a person to each community for two hours every couple of weeks to collect recycling. Now we have 16 permanent sites, and I might add that these sites are rarely abused, a compliment to residents. And our new single-stream recycling has significantly increased our recycling numbers.

During my tenure with Freeborn County I have had the privilege of working with haulers, contractors and solid waste staff throughout the state to identify markets, find marketing avenues for additional items adding to our recyclable list and obtain grants and funding mechanisms for our recycling projects.

When I started we lacked disposal options for hazardous materials, and we developed our mobile collection program. When fluorescent bulbs, electronic display devices, batteries and other items were banned from the landfill, we worked diligently to find inexpensive and convenient disposal options.

I will be the first one to point out that our accomplishments could not have taken place without the help of staff in our department, my counterparts in counties surrounding us and the hundreds of volunteers who have been showing up at our mobile collections for many years to assist us with electronics, hazardous materials, agriculture pesticides and other environmental programs. What a wonderful community we live in and such great support from our population throughout the county.

Congratulations, and thanks to everyone who volunteered!

In the future I might be found hanging around to help Colin Wittmer with the solid waste mobile collections or involved in some way with education, the first goal in my life. Colin will provide great leadership to our solid waste programs.

As one of my college instructors used to say, people need to hear a message many times to remember it and then practice what we learn to make it “stick” in order for it to become part of our life.

If we repeat the message to our children and grandchildren to reduce waste, make quality purchases that do not quickly end up in a landfill and to recycle we can make our lives better, save money, reduce taxes and become part of the solution to what has become an important worldwide environmental problem.


Randy Tuchtenhagen is the Freeborn County solid waste officer.