Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management (PDSWM) recycles about 50 percent of Pope and Douglas counties, but there's still opportunity to improve, officials there said.
Greater Minnesota counties' recycling programs are faced with potential mandates to increase recycling rates from 35 percent to 75 percent of the waste.
"That's a lot of material we need to find to make that recycling rate and organics is the heaviest portion of the waste stream right now, so starting to divert that off will help us out," said Pete Olmscheid, executive director of PDSWM.
"It's also the right thing to do," Olmscheid said. "We're not doing this just to get our numbers up, even though we have to, but we're doing it because it's green and it's correct."
Organics make up about 30 percent of the waste stream that enters the PDSWM waste-to-energy facility.
So, PDSWM is making a proactive move now to increase recycling organic materials - food scraps, coffee grounds, paper plates, napkins and cups - by partnering with local business owners and hog farmers.
First, PDSWM would like to work with commercial businesses that generate a lot of organics - grocery stores, medical facilities, schools, restaurants, long-term care facilities.
The businesses would be required to have another dumpster or cart on-site to contain organic materials separate from regular garbage or recyclables.
Once collected, PDSWM wants to divert organics via the Food-to-Livestock Program. That's contingent on finding a hog farmer in Pope or Douglas County to partner with to develop the program.
The Food-to-Hog Recycling Program is one of the livestock options. There are two different classifications: Class A Feeding Permit, which allows the feeding of meat and non-meat food scraps; and Class B Feeding Permit, which only allows non-meat food scraps to be fed to hogs. The Minnesota Animal Board of Health administers the Food-to-Animal Feeding Programs directly with hog farmers.
"If PDSWM is not able to locate a farmer to work with, we will still start an organics program, and compost the organics instead, at a compost facility,"Olmscheid said.
If you're interested or have questions, contact PDSWM at (320) 763-9340.
"One thing we want to make clear to the public is that if we take all of this food waste out, whatever amount of tons it is, we are still able to generate or get enough waste to keep our facility running at full capacity, so we can continue to operate and make our bond payments as necessary," Olmscheid noted.
Minnewaska Area High School will launch an organics recycling program on March 29. They will partner with Dorrich Dairy in Glenwood for a small site composting program, which allows for an unpermitted site to compost organics and yard waste that is less than 120 cubic yards.
"Right now we're just looking for larger generators [of organic waste]. Down the road, the program will evolve into residential organics recycling to get on board," Olmscheid.
Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management (PDSWM) wants to partner with local businesses - grocery stores, medical facilities, schools, restaurants, long-term care facilities - to launch an organics recycling program.
For more information, contact PDSWM at (320) 763-9340.