By Drew Hatzenbihler
Solid Waste Administrator
After a long break from this article, Recycling 101 is back with a new author. LaVerne Paulson has officially retired and we want to wish him the best with his retirement and thank him for his service to Fillmore County! Having grown up adjacent to Fillmore County in Olmsted, I have been trying to figure out where to start with this article, what I should write about and even after I start, where do I go? What I decided was follow the advice of The Sound of Music and start at the very beginning, “… ‘cause that’s a very good place to start.”
I haven’t been working in the recycling and waste industry for very long, but I have already noticed a few trends that don’t make much sense to me. One of which is throwing away recycling materials. I understand that can be easier to throw everything in one container rather than sort it out. Plus knowing what can be recycled is also a challenge, especially since it differs depending on where you live. I even have to double check what I can and can’t recycle from time to time and I work at the recycling center every day!
We will cover what can and can’t be recycled and where to put it in future articles but for today I want to focus on the “why.” This is a bit of a loaded question with a more complicated answer than can be answered in a short article like this, but here’s my best shot: the short answer, as I see it, is two-fold. Recycling saves precious resources and it also saves you money (in more ways than one).
The ultimate purpose of recycling is to take valuable materials, the ones companies are willing to pay to get, and reuse them to keep that waste from going into a landfill where it will sit forever. This hints at what we will talk about at a later date in terms of what can be recycled. Recycling ultimately relies on finding someone willing to pay for the material you are trying to recycle. Ultimately, this is what decides what can and can’t go into your recycling at home.
Now let’s get to the important bit, how recycling can save you money. For those of you that bring your trash and recycling straight to the Fillmore County Resource Recovery Center, the answer is simple: recyclables can be dropped off free of charge. This means every can, bottle, cardboard box, or metal you recycle lowers the weight of your landfill material and results in a lower bill each time you show up. You may even notice that by recycling you don’t need to dump landfill materials as often. While it might only save a dollar or two here and there, that amount can really add up over the course of a year.
Even if you don’t bring your recycling and trash directly to the Resource Recovery Center and instead have a hauler pick it up for you, separating your recycling can have an impact on your wallet. Like you, your hauler gets charged for landfill materials (i.e., getting rid of trash) but not recycling. The cost of sending materials to landfill is greater than the cost of sending materials to be recycled. If we can divert more of our waste each year into recycling and away from the landfill, that means we can save money and hopefully avoid raising fees for our haulers and for the public.
Ultimately, this money saving plan requires help from all of you and your neighbors! We are doing our best to try to keep our costs low by lowering transportation costs for recycling by sending more recyclables per trip and diverting what waste we can from the landfill and getting it into the recycling. The three of us out here can only do so much and we need your help!
If you ever have questions about what can and can’t be recycled please give us a call at the Resource Recovery Center at (507) 756-4704 and we would be happy to assist you.