East Metro trash and recycling is a $119 million industry; supports 1000s of jobs

Trash and recycling are a significant industry in Ramsey and Washington counties.

In 2013, renters, homeowners and business owners paid about $119 million to have trash and recyclables taken away. Collecting and handling trash and recyclables supports more than 500 jobs in both counties.

Additionally, businesses that manufacture new products made with recycled paper, glass, metals and plastics provide nearly 4,000 jobs. The impact of these businesses on the East Metro economy is valued at more than $820 million.

Commissioners in Ramsey and Washington counties are committed to supporting this valuable industry and helping to make it stronger.

Currently, about 70 trash hauling companies are contracted with Ramsey and Washington counties to take trash collected from area households and businesses to a privately owned facility in Newport. There, the trash is sorted for recyclables accidentally thrown in the trash. Then, the trash is shredded into pieces. The shredded trash is transported by truck to Xcel Energy plants in Red Wing and Mankato, where it is burned to make electricity

Ramsey and Washington counties have been the primary customers of the Newport facility since 1987. That plant alone employs nearly 60 well-paying union jobs.

For more than two years, commissioners of both counties have been considering how new technologies may be able to help us build a modern solid waste processing system that uses trash as a resource, not as a drain on taxpayers, and households and businesses that generate trash.

These new technologies could lead to the creation of more jobs in the East Metro. For example, if our solid waste management system were to recycle the estimated 110,000 tons of food waste currently buried in a landfill, about 90 full-time jobs could be created at a possible biogas facility and at an industrial compost plant, not including the estimated 250 construction jobs.

Another technology called gasification has the potential to support about 30 jobs, plus more than 600 construction and indirect jobs. Gasification would use shredded trash to make energy more efficiently. It could also create chemicals that could be used in consumer products.

But no matter which technologies county commissioners determine are best for creating a modern trash processing system for the future — all after much public discussion — those decisions shouldn’t affect the relationship you have with your local trash and recycling haulers. The county efforts deal only with how trash is handled once it is collected from your home or business.