We're putting trash to good use, to produce energy, compost and jobs

Commissioners in Ramsey and Washington counties are seeing trash in a new way: As a resource to produce energy and nutrient-rich compost, to help make consumer products and to grow good jobs in our communities.

Last year, residents and businesses in Ramsey and Washington counties threw away more than 1,000 tons of trash a day. That’s more than 400,000 tons a year.

Residents and businesses also recycled more than 412,000 tons of paper, metal, glass, plastics and yard waste, too. But as diligent as we are about recycling, recyclables still find their way into the trash barrel. In fact in 2013, recyclables worth about $25 million were thrown into the trash in Ramsey and Washington counties.

Commissioners in both counties are committed to supporting and strengthening recycling in our communities and businesses.

The counties also are working together to find new technologies to use in the coming 20 to 30 years to process what is left in our trash from homes and businesses and get the most value out of what we throw away — even as we work to increase recycling and reduce all that we throw away. Additionally, these new technologies can help us continue to grow good jobs locally, and to continue to protect taxpayers and our environment.

Commissioners in both counties recognize that we can do better and move trash from being a drain on us, to being a resource we get value from. We want to get more recyclables out of our trash. We want to use trash to make energy more efficiently. If we’re able, we want to use trash to make materials that can be used by others to manufacture consumer goods.

We also can do better by recycling the 110,000 tons of food waste a year that we currently bury in a landfill.

New technologies can help us get more value out of trash and food waste, while protecting the taxpayers of Ramsey and Washington counties, as well as the environment.

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 — they shouldn’t affect the relationship you have with your trash hauler. The things we are considering have nothing to do with organized trash collection. Trash collection is overseen by individual cities and towns, not counties.