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You Asked: What happens to your recyclables?

After they arrive at Pope Douglas Solid Waste in Alexandria, recyclables like aluminum, tin and cardboard are sent to St. Paul where the items are recycled into the same materials for reuse. (Echo Press photo by Amy Chaffins)

Editor's note: The following is part of an Echo Press fea-ture, "You Asked." Readers are invited to send the newspaper a simple question and we'll try to get to the bottom of it. Send questions to

After recycled goods leave your curb, where do they go? An Echo Press reader asked, so we went to Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management (PDSWM) to find out.

Last year, 2,157 tons of materials were recycled from the PDSWM facility - everything from glass to motor oil.

Recyclable items are brought into the facility in a variety of ways:

• Most of the trash that's hauled into PDSWM is run through the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF). The MRF has a sorting machine that can detect ferrous and non-ferrous metals and employees hand-sort cardboard from a stream of garbage. Those detectable metals and cardboard are separated out to be recycled.

• If you sort your recyclables before putting the box on the curb, those items are dropped off at PDSWM by your garbage hauler.

• The PDSWM recycle center collects recyclables and they're sorted by hand as the goods are dropped off.

So, once your recycled goods are dropped off at PDSWM, where do they go from there?

They go all over the state:

• Glass is shipped off to the Fargo-Moorhead area where its recycled into landscape material and a sandblasting product.

• Newspaper and magazines are also sent to Fargo-Moorhead where they're made into egg cartons.

• Office paper goes to Duluth where it's recycled into new office paper.

• Newspaper is shipped to Vergas where it becomes cellulose insulation.

• Plastics are trucked to St. Cloud where they are recycled into a durable decking material.

• Aluminum, tin and cardboard are sent to St. Paul where the items are recycled into the same materials for reuse.

• Used motor oil that is collected at the recycle drop center is purchased by a local business and used to heat their building.

PDSWM is paid for the recycled goods.

The recycling commodities generated $376,110 in 2010. Plus, 6,110 gallons of motor oil were collected which generated $2,444.

PDSWM also offers a paint exchange shop - bring in your useable paint leftovers for others to use, or stop by and pick up some paint for a project. It's a free service and it's been so successful that the staff has had trouble keeping paint on the shelf.

More information is available at

Amy Chaffins

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

(320) 763-3133