In Minnesota, trash collection and management is a public service, like electricity, water and sewer services. Counties are responsible for ensuring trash services are provided. Ramsey and Washington counties have worked together to manage waste responsibly since the early 1980s. The partnership was created in response to a leaking landfill that both counties were using, which caused significant groundwater contamination in southern Washington County. Today, the counties work together under the umbrella of Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy, serving the 800,000 residents and 70,000 businesses in the two counties. Together, Ramsey and Washington counties have drastically reduced the amount of waste residents and businesses send to landfills: more than 90% of the waste in the two counties is now diverted from landfills. This diversion is achieved through robust recycling programs and recovering value from trash by converting it to energy rather than landfilling it. Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy owns and operates the Recycling & Energy Center in Newport, which handles all the trash from the two counties. At the Recycling & Energy Center, trash is processed to recover recyclable metals and to make a fuel used by Xcel Energy to generate electricity.

The Recycling & Energy Center manages approximately 13% of the state’s trash, including trash from the capitol and the state fair. Despite significant investment to encourage recycling in homes and businesses, a large quantity of recyclables still ends up in the trash. The two counties are seeking state support through the state bonding bill to install new equipment that will recover these materials, specifically plastics, cardboard, metals and food scraps. To cite just two materials, residents put over 1,000,000 recyclable plastic and aluminum containers in the trash every day. That’s in the trash — not recycling. State investment in the new equipment will enable materials such as these to be recovered for recycling at the Recycling & Energy Center. I want to thank our local legislators, Reps. Anne Claflin and Tony Jurgens, and Sen. Karla Bigham for their leadership and work toward making this a priority at the capitol this spring.

Proven, cutting-edge technology will enable the recovery of more value from the trash, diverting 64,000 tons per year (that’s enough to fill Allianz Field stadium three times!). The proposed project will create 18 jobs.

The state has set an ambitious goal of 75% recycling, and the two counties are working hard to achieve that goal. Recycling conserves resources, reduces carbon emissions and creates jobs.

Readers should know that recycling in homes and businesses is still the best way to recycle. These materials are cleaner and more valuable when separated at the source. The two counties have a notably high recycling rate for residents and business — together, we can continue leading the way in responsible waste management, which benefits the health, environment and economy for current and future generations.