Recycling is good for the environment -- but not necessarily good for Crow Wing County coffers as more residents recycle, but some do so without regard to what is acceptable and what is not at drop-off recycling sites around the county.
“If the rates of recycling increase -- and we’ve already gotten some preliminary requests for next year -- if we did nothing, we’d run out of money in about four, five years, as far as to provide drop sites for our county,” County Land Services Director Gary Griffin told the county board.
The board of commissioners approved, however, at its Tuesday, Sept. 10, meeting the city of Crosby’s request of the county for $15,000 more to operate Crosby’s recycling drop-off center, to be paid from recycling reserve funds.
“I know that we’ve had extensive talks about this, about the increased costs and us worrying because we’re going to run out of money quickly if these costs keep going up,” Commissioner Paul Koering said.
Crosby’s request was part of the board meeting’s consent agenda, but Commissioner Paul Koering asked the request be pulled from the consent agenda for further discussion as a separate item.
“I think we’re going to come up with a different program for next year,” Koering said about his lack of support for the city’s additional request for $1,000 to buy two 4-by-8-foot signs specifying what is and is not recyclable.
Crow Wing County paid $42,000 to the city of Crosby in January for its 2019 recycling program.
“We’re looking at different ways to curb the costs, continue to serve our customers at a very high level and probably going to have to have some significant changes, one way or another,” Griffin said.
Garrison Disposal of Aitkin discontinued its recycling service at the end of last year, so Crosby searched for a new service provider, and Waste Management was the only option, according to an Aug. 26 letter to Commissioner Doug Houge by Crosby City Administrator Lisa Sova.
“We’re very, very preliminary in how many drop sites do we need to be effective -- is it a travelling drop site, do we manage the contract -- maybe one larger contract, get a better rate potentially than all these different municipalities trying to negotiate -- so there’s a lot of discussion that needs to happen,” Griffin said.
The board approved in February a request by Nisswa to increase the 2019 recycling funding by the county from $45,000 to $68,000 to operate Nisswa’s recycling drop-off center.
“The board has approved some requests earlier this year, so we needed to bring this forward and have the discussion,” Griffin said about the request by Crosby for more funding to operate and to purchase signs.
“They’ve had some problems with contamination. What that means is people are throwing things that aren’t recyclable in there and then the hauler charges ‘X amount’ of contamination fees, so they’re trying maybe to curb some of that is what the idea was for the signs.”
When Crosby entered into an agreement to provide a local recycling drop-off site, there were three in the area, including one in Crosby, one in Ironton and one in Deerwood, according to Sova, but Deerwood discontinued the service, and Ironton has moved to curbside recycling.
“This leaves the bins in Crosby to service all area residents who have more recycling products than fit in the curbside receptacles as well as those from surrounding communities who do not offer the service,” Sova said in her letter to Houge.
“At the city’s expense, security cameras have been installed to monitor the recycling center, educational literature has been included with utility bills, and articles have been published in the local newspaper.”
Prior to the county board approving Nisswa’s request, Nisswa City Administrator Jenny Max had told that city’s council members that Nisswa has become a regional site to take their recyclables -- resulting in increased volume and increased cost incurred by Waste Partners of Pine River.
“One of the things you may want to think about is hauler costs is the main driver, so to try to maybe limit the hauling and that is important, but if we start paying for signs ... I don’t think we have the funds to long term do that,” Griffin told the board on Tuesday.
Sova wrote in her letter the average monthly cost for recycling was about $5,000, and Crosby has 11 dumpsters, “and all are needed to meet the demand.” At the current usage rate, funds will run out following the September invoice, according to Sova.
“Therefore, a request of $15,000 is submitted to fund the last three months of 2019 and ensure continued recycling service,” Sova wrote to Houge, who, along with Koering, sits on the county solid waste committee.
Baxter, Brainerd, Breezy Point, Pequot Lakes and Ironton offer curbside recycling strictly for their residents. Baxter officials recently took into account in that city’s 2020 proposed budget that the county would likely eliminate funding for Baxter’s curbside recycling program.
“Recycling, for example, I think the cardboard was $150 a ton for baled cardboard. Now it’s my understanding that it’s $30 a ton, so it’s really almost not even cost effective for a hauler to even to do the recycling,” Koering said.
China had been importing about 40 percent of paper, plastics and other recyclables from the United States. But after China’s new environmental restrictions went into effect, exported scrap -- from plastics and paper to aluminum, copper and stainless steel -- dropped considerably.
“And if we are going to run out of money, you know what that means -- raising people’s taxes, raising the solid waste fee -- and I’m not in favor of that,” Koering said Tuesday.
Koering then made a motion to approve Crosby’s request of the county for $15,000 more to operate Crosby’s recycling drop-off center and not approve of the city’s additional request for $1,000 for signage. Houge seconded Koering’s motion, and it was unanimously passed.