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.

Today, the two counties work jointly through Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy (R&E). 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

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:

  • Research and negotiations are underway to partner with private industry to utilize gasification to convert refuse-derived fuel (RDF) into biofuels, such as ethanol and industrial chemicals. Over time R&E plans to supplant combustion of RDF 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 after collection. 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 the East Metro as part of an integrated solid waste system well into the future. In doing so, they adopted the following 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

  • Assure flexibility

  • Manage risks

  • 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: