By Drew Hatzenbihler
Solid Waste Administrator
Bob Dylan said it best when he wrote “times they are a-changin’.” As uncomfortable as it may be, change is inevitable. Here in Fillmore County we are forced to change more often than we may like. Due to changes in recycling markets, and changes to policies at the landfills Fillmore County uses, we are making several changes to our operation that may affect our residents as well.
Change 1 Medical sharps disposal
The first significant change is that Fillmore County residents can no longer dispose of medical sharps (medical needles, and sharp medical instruments) in their trash. These items must now be tape-sealed in a hard sided detergent-type plastic bottle or a specially designed sharps container and brought directly to the Resource Recovery Center in Preston. Fillmore County is accepting residential quantities of these items free of charge for county residents. Medical sharps from business or agriculture must find a collection service for these materials. In the past, residents have been allowed to seal these items in a hard sided container and dispose of them with their normal trash. THIS IS NO LONGER ALLOWED within Fillmore County: ALL HOUSEHOLD QUANTITIES OF MEDICAL SHARPS MUST BE BROUGHT DIRECTLY TO THE FILLMORE COUNTY RESOURCE RECOVERY CENTER.
This change is being required by one of the landfills that Fillmore County has a contract with. Sharps that are disposed of in the trash pose a serious safety risk to their employees when working in the landfill as well as when doing maintenance on landfill equipment. These materials pose a similar threat to the Fillmore County employees working around the materials and equipment as well. If Fillmore County fails to comply with this regulation, the county will incur fines. In addition to banning medical sharps, we are also prohibited from sending cardboard to our landfill.
Change 2 Cardboard must be recycled
The second significant change is that ALL CARDBOARD MUST BE RECYCLED and cannot be disposed of in your normal trash. This includes corrugated boxes and sheets, shipping boxes, cereal boxes, and similar products. If you haul your trash to the recovery center yourself, you have likely been informed that cardboard cannot be thrown in with landfill materials and must be recycled. If the landfill finds any loads we send to them contaminated with cardboard, we are charged more than double our normal fee for that load. These fees could result in higher costs for trash services throughout the county. To help keep everyone’s costs low, please make sure you are recycling any and all cardboard from your household.
Change 3 Only certain plastics accepted
The third and final significant change is to the materials that can be recycled at the Fillmore County Resource Recovery Center. Since the majority of recycling within the county is brought to this facility, these new rules will apply to most residents (check with your local hauler if you are unsure). Due to recent events, recycling markets within our area have changed significantly. As a result, some of the materials we have collected in the past must now be thrown out with your household trash rather than your recycling. Fillmore County will now only accept #1, #2, #4, and #5 plastics. These numbers are generally found on the bottom of plastic containers inside the three “chasing arrows” recycling symbol. If there is no “chasing arrow” found on the container or it has a different number than the numbers listed above, it cannot be recycled and must be thrown out with your normal household trash. In addition to plastics, Fillmore County can no longer accept shredded paper materials for recycling. This material must also be placed in your normal household trash for disposal.
The reason for the change in plastics recycling is that there are currently no markets for certain grades (numbers) of plastic. Without a market, these materials get stock piled or thrown away. In addition, they can also contaminate desirable plastics (plastics that do have a market) if they inadvertently get sorted with other plastics. Similarly, shredded paper is too small to be effectively collected and can cause issues for sorting/processing equipment and also contaminates loads of other recyclable materials.
As always, if you have any questions about these changes, you can call the Fillmore County Resource Recovery Center at (507) 765-4704.