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More trash, more revenue

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More trash in 2013 – a whopping 80,000 tons of it – doesn’t really phase the local waste-to-energy officials.

In fact, more trash means more revenue for Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management (PDSWM).

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This week, Pete Olmscheid, executive director of PDSWM, shared the final, 2013 trash stats.


Last year, 80,824 tons of trash were dropped at PDSWM. That’s a 4.4 percent increase over 2012’s total of 77,255 tons.

Why more trash?

Olmscheid suggested, “The economy is starting to come out of recession and that’s attributing to the increase in the amount of waste being generated. And it’s not just waste, recycling is also increasing. Residents are doing their duty, as they should.”

Trash from Pope, Douglas, Grant, Stevens, Stearns, Benton and Sherburne counties is dropped at PDSWM.

Trash from Pope and Douglas counties alone increased 2.3 percent in 2013.


The PDSWM facility generates steam energy and the steam is sold to neighboring 3M for heating and production, and Douglas County Hospital (DCH) for heating, cooling and production.

Last year, steam sales to 3M and DCH produced $953,000 in revenue for PDSWM.

Just last week, PDSWM also started supplying steam to Alexandria Technical and Community College’s (ATCC) neighboring law enforcement and 700 buildings for heating purposes.

By adding ATCC this year, 2014 revenue for steam is estimated to total about $1 million.

Last year, the facility generated 3,614 megawatts of electricity that was used in-house. That’s enough electricity to provide power to about 340 homes per year when an average household consumes 800-1,000 kilowatt hours a month.


The recycling center at PDSWM tallied 25,882 vehicles passing through in 2013. That’s an average of 83 vehicles per day. During the summer months, that number increases to about 140 vehicles per day. A total of 351.1 tons of recyclables were accepted in 2013 and 338.5 tons in 2012.

Regarding household hazardous waste drop-offs, a total of 3,975 households dropped off household hazardous waste items in 2013 – varying from adhesives, paints, pool chemicals, rat poisons and wood stains. In 2012, 3,238 households dropped off items.

PDSWM operates a Reuse Room, which takes unneeded paint, cleaners, automotive or lawn products and makes them available for other citizens to use free of charge.

The Reuse Room tallied 2,711 households that took items in 2013 and 2,409 households in 2012. The maximum allowed items are five at a time.


PDSWM’s total budget for 2014 is $8.3 million. It’s about 4 percent more than 2013.

Olmscheid said the budget increase is tied to the cost of operation, the amount of waste being processed and standard repairs.

“We haven’t changed our operation of how we do things, but we’ve certainly grown by adding a third waste combustor [in 2011]. The facility we have now should be able to handle the [trash] capacity of Pope and Douglas counties until at least the year 2035. But things change in time, too. We don’t know how recycling is going to change.

“We’re always looking at new ways to increase recycling to try to divert some of the waste stream away from the waste to energy facility,” he said.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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