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Recycling 101

By LaVerne C. Paulson

Fri, Dec 13th, 2013
Posted in All Home & Garden

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has recently completed a study on the garbage Minnesotans are throwing away rather than recycling. The last study of this kind was done in 2000. A November 17 article written by Josephine Marcotty of the Star Tribune dealt with the findings of this study. I would like to pass some of this information on to you at this time. You may be surprised to find out a number of your fellow Minnesotans, perhaps your next door neighbor, or you are not recycling as much as possible.

This year, it is estimated that Minnesotans will throw away 3.6 million tons of garbage. Hiding among all the real landfill garbage is approximately $217,000,000 worth of valuable recyclables. Sifting through 40,000 pounds of garbage at six sites throughout the state produced some interesting findings, some of which are found near the end of this article. Minnesota’s average recycling rate is higher than that of most states, just under 50 percent, but this rate has remained more or less steady for several years, rather than increasing.

One third of the garbage going to the landfill could be recycled. This includes a great amount of recyclable paper and cardboard which is in high demand by manufacturers, and plastic that can be made into construction materials, packaging and food containers.

Wayne Gjerde of the MPCA has stated that Minnesotans throw away about half of the glass, aluminum, and plastic bottles they use. We are drinking fewer soft drinks, but the national average of 10 gallons of bottled water per person consumed in 1991 skyrocketed to 30 gallons in 2012. Plastic bottles thrown away by Minnesotans in one day would form a line that would run from Winona, Minn. to Bemidji, Minn. The aluminum cans we throw away in Minnesota each day would stretch from Minneapolis to Grand Marais.

The MPCA has released the following findings. The amount of plastic thrown away has increased from 11 percent of the waste stream to 18 percent since 2000. Paper in the waste stream has decreased from 34 percent to 25 percent, likely due to decreased printing of newspapers. Twelve thousand tons, or 24 million pounds, of aluminum beverage containers were discarded in Minnesota in 2012--the equivalent of 3.56 million aluminum cans per day. Over 543,000 tons (1 billion pounds) of recyclable paper were discarded in Minnesota in 2012. Organics (food) accounts for 31 percent of the waste stream, which is a 21 percent increase from the 2000 study.

A new year is just around the corner. If everyone in Fillmore County would improve their recycling habits a little bit, and throw a little less into the landfill, tons of material would be reclaimed and recycled. According to an article I read recently, Fillmore County is about 15 percent below the state recycling average. Fillmore County’s recycling rate has increased throughout the years, but with some extra effort put toward recycling, I know we can do much better than that.

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