Investing in the Future
Ramsey and Washington Counties strongly support the state’s hierarchy of waste management, including an emphasis on reducing, reusing and recycling materials, and are committed to achieving the state’s 75% recycling goal. Since the 1980s, they have worked in unison to ensure that waste is managed to reduce risks to health and the environment. The result is a fully integrated system of reduction, reuse, recycling and energy recovery. Knowing that there is room for improvement, the two counties are acting to redesign the solid waste system for the next generation.
Joint work by Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy (R&E) will increase investments in waste reduction, reuse and recycling. Examples include:
expanding work on food waste reduction, recovery and recycling
investing in business recycling through BizRecycling
emphasizing recycling in multi-family housing and schools
diverting bulky items, such as furniture and mattresses, from trash
focusing on recycling textiles
partnering with more people and communities to participate in reducing waste
With a focus on the resource value of trash and opportunities presented by new technology, the counties’ plans also include upgrading the R&E Center to recover more materials for recycling and to recover energy in new ways:
Negotiations are underway with Enerkem, Inc., an international firm that has developed technology to convert RDF into biofuels, such as ethanol and industrial chemicals. Over time R&E plans to supplant combustion of refuse-derived fuel with conversion of the material into fuels.
R&E is in the preliminary stages of establishing food waste (organics) collection from households at curbside in both counties, using durable compostable bags (DCBs). These bags will be collected with the trash and be sorted out at private transfer stations and the R&E Center. The material will be composted or used in privately-owned anaerobic digesters. DCB fact sheet (pdf).
Despite strong efforts to increase recycling at home and businesses, some recyclables remain in the trash. R&E plans to add equipment to pre-process trash to remove and recycle high-value recyclables, such as metals, certain plastics and cardboard. This will augment, and not replace, household and business recycling.
When Ramsey and Washington Counties were considering purchase of the Recycling & Energy Center, the county commissioners insisted that the discussion focus on how the facility could best serve as part of an integrated solid waste system well into the future. In doing so, they adopted guiding principles for design of the waste and recycling system:
Plan for a 20-30 year horizon.
Build on the current system and allow changes in processing to emerge over time.
Pivot the view from “waste” to “resources” to add value to the local economy and environment.
Considerable research and evaluation work resulted in a number of reports, including the following:
1/2014 – Technology Comparative Analysis
9/2014 – Waste Composition Report
2/2015 – Environmental Analysis Report
2/2015 – Financial Analysis Report
2/2015 – Risk Analysis Report
3/2019 – Risk Analysis Report
3/2019 – Financing of RE Center Improvements
3/2019 – Carted Organics Collection Costs