Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management recently opened its Metal Recovery Facility and Glacial Ridge Compost Facility.

An open house for the $2.6 million project was held Friday at the Pope/Douglas ash landfill, about two miles east of Hoffman on County Road 112 at the Douglas-Grant county line.

According to Steve Vrchota, executive director of Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management, the project should pay for itself in about three to three and a half years and there will be a 20% reduction in volume, meaning less space will be taken up at the landfill.

The Pope/Douglas ash landfill began receiving ash from the Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management incinerator in Alexandria in 1994. The ash landfill was designed as a hazardous waste landfill even though the ash that is disposed of in the ash landfill is not considered a hazardous waste. The ash processed through the new facility may allow for the beneficial reuse of ash in roadway construction at some point, said Vrchota.

The new recycling equipment is used for harvesting both non-ferrous and ferrous metals. Non-ferrous metals include things made of aluminum, copper, brass and stainless steel, while ferrous metals include steel and wrought iron.

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The equipment, which when first built, was exposed to the elements. But now, the large piece of machinery is housed in a hoop building and out of the elements. The new hoop building has about a 20-year life span.

Vrchota said the goal is to cycle through all the ash in the landfill, which will take between five and six years to process all the materials.

The ash runs through the equipment on a multi-conveyor belt system. Ferrous metals are picked up by a large magnet, put into a shipping container and then sent to a steel recycling plant.

Non-ferrous metals are separated from the ash and dirt through what looks like a large strainer before being sent through on another conveyor belt and put through what is called a ballistic separator.

The system uses Eddy Current Separators to remove non-ferrous metal from the ash. Basically, the system makes non-ferrous metals magnetic so they can be pulled out more easily. These metals, which often include jewelry and coins, are also put in shipping containers and sent off for recycling.

Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management has a consulting contract with GEM-Ash, a firm that mechanically recovers gold, copper aluminum, steel and other precious metals.

The new Glacial Ridge Compost Facility, a regional facility, is also housed in a hoop-like structure. It was built to store organics composting material before it is shipped to the tri-county facility. Storing the material onsite helps reduce transportation costs, said Vrchota.

The facility, which has a capacity for up to 1,000 tons per year, will serve the composting needs of Douglas County, as well as Pope, Grant, Stevens and Otter Tail counties. Additional counties are welcome to participate in the organics recycling program and should contact Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management for information.