It seems too good to be true. Or maybe too easy, simple and convenient to be true, more than one person has mentioned over the past couple weeks or so, in the wake of a discussion at a Crookston City Council meeting about the City’s recycling program and whether or not the City should expand it by picking up the blue bins around town more frequently than is the case now.
While City crews still like the various recyclables separated in the blue containers as much as possible, Polk County has gone to a “single stream” system at its Transfer Station in Crookston and at its Solid Waste Management facility in Fosston. It’s all made it so easy for people to make the effort to recycle, but it’s also given skeptics and cynics an opportunity to conclude that it simply cannot be that easy.
“Where does all that stuff really end up?” the Times was asked last week. Well, it ends up at the aforementioned facility in Fosston, which is in the midst of a major expansion/update project, thanks to millions of dollars in state money and local matching funds, that will enhance the way it receives, processes and distributes recyclable materials like plastic, aluminum, glass, cardboard and tin.
But even in the current facility that will soon be replaced by all the new stuff, it’s still a system and a process to behold. Spurred to skeptical suspicion by the recent comments questioning the actual value of the recycling program around these parts, the Times drove out to Fosston last week and was led on a tour of the whole place by Jon Steiner, Polk County Environmental Services manager, and our conclusion is that Crookston residents, Polk County residents and residents at five other counties that utilize Polk County Solid Waste Management in Fosston can rest assured that their recycling efforts are not going to waste.
First of all, when all of the machines, motors and conveyors are operating at the same time when the recyclables are processed through the facility each week, you have to yell to be heard by the person standing next to you. Second, there are a lot of employees at the facility who for hours perform the repetitive, far-from-glamourous duty of sorting all of the recyclable material rolling by in front of them on various conveyor belts. And, third, even if you don’t recycle, there are machines and, yes, people, who do the best they can to find some recyclable materials in the trash you discard.
It’s actually quite amazing to see and hear. The recyclable materials are sold to markets across the country, whichever ones are willing to pay the most at any given time. The market for glass is pretty bleak right now, but even that is used in a beneficial way as cover material at the county landfill.
Oh, and that garbage? You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s burned and the resulting heat is converted to steam and sold to businesses that need it. And the resulting ash is sold to the Minnesota Department of Transportation for use as base material in various road projects in this area.
That’s a lot of good things going on under one roof, and with all of the new equipment coming online, the positive impact is only going to expand. So let’s not only be appreciative, let’s maximize our participation.