Washington and Ramsey Counties Burning All Waste, Exploring Better Options for the Future

January 02, 2018 10:46 PM

Ramsey and Washington counties are trying to get homeowners to do a better job of recycling.

But the counties are also looking into new ways to turn trash into something else entirely, whether it's energy today or fuel tomorrow.


"Landfills and how you dispose of everything has completely changed," said Bobby Stewart, with Highland Sanitation. "Back in the day, grandma and grandpa could dump for free into an open pit."

Stewart's family has run Highland Sanitation on the metro's east side for three generations.

"You can pretty much figure there's a lot of recycling getting thrown away because people aren't separating like they should," he said.

Ramsey and Washington counties are working to change that, having partially used an incinerator for years to turn waste into electricity distributed by Xcel Energy.

Now all waste collected in the two counties is being burned. That may only be temporary, as the counties work together to find companies that could transform trash into useable biofuel in the future.

"Landfills aren't the open pits that they used to be," Stewart said. "And incineration is not a perfect method either."

Stewart said he's excited to see what other alternatives are still around the corner.

"People throw away perfectly good stuff all the time just because they replaced it," he said of the items he sees in dumpsters every day.
"Nowadays, so much stuff is recyclable that there's no reason you should have less recycling than garbage," he said. "It should be at the very minimum 50/50."

That's the first step for Washington and Ramsey counties as they work to initiate far more recycling at home.

This March, officials say they plan to develop a request for proposals to learn how the counties could turn waste into fuel.  They say there are about ten companies across the country that have the ability to do it.

Ramsey County cites studies saying that in the east metro, only about one-third of a household trash bill are for disposal costs. County officials say the cost of operating the incinerator is comparable to other deposit sites.

For more information, follow this link: http://morevaluelesstrash.com/frequently-asked-questions-the-real-cost-of-trash



Katherine Johnson

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