Most area residents want to recycle, but ever since the county moved its sheds to 17350 Henriette Road, fewer are doing so. Pine County Land & Resource Manager, Caleb Anderson, hopes more people will make the extra effort to keep going green.
The hours of operation for the South Pine Recycling Center and Transfer Station are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. The site is also open Wednesdays from 3-7 p.m. during compost season.
Recycling in Pine County is operated in partnership with Pine Habilitation and Supportive Employment, Inc (PHASE). The county provides the sheds and contracts with PHASE to sort and prepare the materials for transport. The collaboration has been a win-win situation, but changes in the recycling industry caused issues for PHASE that required either a significant increase in contract fees or modifications to the way things were being done.
One of the most impactful industry changes was that China chose to no longer purchase recyclable materials from the United States. As Anderson explained, “Recycling used to be one of our nation’s largest export products, and much of it went to China, but that stopped in 2017.”
According to Anderson, at that time, most recycling in the country was processed as single sort, which meant that people wishing to recycle could put all of their items in one bin. However, there was so much contamination from non-recyclable goods that buyers, like China, weren’t willing to accept the shipments. For local recycling programs, it meant much more money spent on sorting and on disposal of items that couldn’t be used.
Additionally, costs to repurpose materials, especially certain plastics, have increased dramatically, making it less profitable for companies to utilize these materials. This is why currently, Pine County only accepts plastics in categories one and two. All other plastics put in the recycling sheds have to be disposed of as trash, creating an indirect cost to taxpayers.
Anderson acknowledges that while some people purposely and knowingly disposed of garbage at the recycling sheds, others simply didn’t know what was acceptable. In an effort to monitor and provide a staff person to answer questions, the county decided to relocate the sheds in Pine City to the compost site on County Road 7, just west of the freeway. Hours are from 10 to 4 on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 8-3 on Saturdays. The site will also be open on Wednesdays during the composting season.
“This is a pilot project that will run until June of 2020,” Anderson explained. “We’ll be gathering feedback and assessing what more can be done.” He admits that he’s a bit concerned that usage volume has dropped since the relocation, but he’s hoping it’s simply a matter of people not being aware yet that the sheds have been moved.
However, several residents interviewed said they no longer recycle because they can’t make it to the site during the available hours. “I used to drop off my recycling on my way home, sometimes at 2 am. Now I can’t do that,” shared one local. Donna and Stuart Clem, who were utilizing the recycling sheds one recent fall day said they worry about what people are doing with their recycling if they’re not bringing it to the new location.
“This was never a money-making operation for the county,” Anderson stated. “It’s part of our environmental ethic. It’s a behavior we as a community and as a country want to exhibit to cut down on what’s going in our landfills and to do the right thing for future generations.”