Will more recycling education help?

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“The fast and easy recycling era — throw everything in your curbside cart — has come to an end,” county environmental resources staff stated in a report to the county’s Physical Development Committee.

A declining market for unsorted recyclables sold by waste haulers is putting more attention on what is picked up at the curbside and whether loads include items deemed unacceptable for recycling, such as plastic grocery bags and shredded paper.

Commissioners on the Physical Development Committee will review the proposed education and outreach efforts aimed at stopping improper recycling practices.

The push follows an Olmsted County Board of Commissioners decision to delay a vote on a proposed ordinance change to make way for a standard $20 fine for misuse of recycling bins.

Tony Hill, the county’s environmental resources director, has pointed out that contaminated recycling has emerged as a costly issue for haulers, who face penalties when improper material is delivered among loads taken to sorting facilities, which are outside the county.

“They are seeing egregious abuse of the recycling carts — dirty diapers, dead animals, yard waste, computers and rechargeable batteries,” he said. “They are also seeing residents use that recycling bin as a second trash bin.”

As a result, contaminated loads of recycling end up at the county’s Waste-to-Energy facility, where they are burned with remains sent to the local landfill.

The county’s environmental resources staff is proposing a 12-month effort to update its recycling education and outreach program to make sure people know what to recycle, when to recycle, where to recycle and how to recycle.

The revisions will be part of the department’s 10-year Solid Waste Management Plan, which is due to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency by Nov. 30, 2021.

At this point, county staff are suggesting the proposed county-backed fee remain on hold, which would still allow haulers to assess recycling penalties on their own.

“Residential education alone is not enough to tackle contamination at the curbside,” county staff wrote in the report to the Physical Development Committee. “We need to start engaging the public and partners, reinforcing good recycling behaviors and informing residents about what they are doing wrong and right when recycling.”

County commissioners on the Physical Development Committee will review the proposal at 8 a.m. Tuesday in conference room 2 of the city-county Government Center. Information for accessing the meeting online is available at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com/.

The full county board isn’t expected to return to the recycling discussion until Nov. 17.

UPCOMING MEETINGS

Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of Nov. 2 include:

Olmsted County

• Administrative Committee, 8 a.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the government center. Information for online viewing is available at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com/

• Physical Development Committee, 8 a.m. Tuesday in conference room 2 of the government center. Information for online viewing is available at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com/

• Board of County Commissioners, 9 a.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the government center. The meeting will be livestream at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com/

• Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, 10 a.m. Wednesday in the board chambers of the government center. Information for online viewing is available at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com/

• Planning Advisory Commission, 7 p.m. Thursday in board chambers of the government center. The meeting will be livestreamed at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com/



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