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Recycling on the rise in Wadena County

Photo by Rachelle Klemme Wadena County Solid Waste Supervisor Tammy Ehrmantraut ropes off a filled recycle bin, left, before moving an empty bin to its place Wednesday afternoon. Recycling has increased dramatically in Wadena County during recent years.1 / 2
Photo by Rachelle Klemme Ehrmantraut drives a Mack truck to drop off an empty recycle bin under the water tower, before picking up the filled bin between the truck and the water tower. The Wadena recycling site is refreshed three times a week.2 / 2

Recycling in Wadena County has increased dramatically in the last few years, although occasionally people abuse the service.

Tammy Ehrmantraut, Wadena County solid waste supervisor, said they processed approximately 550 tons of recycling in 2011. That was an increase from about 500 tons in 2010 and about 380 tons in 2009.

In 2012 so far, they have processed about 300 tons.

"A lot more people have started recycling," Ehrmantraut said, adding that more people are aware of landfills and the space that items thrown in the trash take up.

Mike Hanan, Wadena County solid waste administrator, who is also working from Fergus Falls, said Otter Tail County has not seen the same big increase. He said Wadena County has more sites with blue recycle bins than in the past, along with more garbage haulers providing recycling pickup. Greater access to recycling opportunities has helped with the increase, he said.

Wadena County Commissioner Bill Stearns said when he was first elected about 10 years ago, they didn't even have the blue recycle bins.

Previous to the blue recycling containers, some of the townships had recycling set up. In Wadena, the haulers would only collect recycling about once a month.

Stearns said when the blue recycling containers were put under the Wadena water tower permanently, people were encouraged to recycle more because they had the option to get rid of the items at times convenient for them.

Ehrmantraut said bins are in Wadena, Sebeka, Menahga, Nimrod, Huntersville, Verndale, Aldrich and Thomastown Township, as well as the transfer station itself at 10542 170th St. NW. Also, schools have their own recycling bins.

Wadena's blue bin is changed three times a week. The bins in Sebeka, Menahga, Verndale and Thomastown Township are picked up weekly, while the bins in Nimrod and Aldrich are cleared every other week and Huntersville is cleared every month.

After recycling is taken to the county transfer station, it goes to Recycle America in the Twin Cities to be sorted out. Recycle America is a subsidiary of Waste Management, Inc.

Ehrmantraut said some people do not realize how many products can be recycled.

The Wadena County Solid Waste website maintains a list of recyclable items.

Ehrmantraut also said there is some confusion over sorting different types of cardboard.

The cardboard slot in the blue bins specifically means corrugated cardboard.

Boxboard, the lighter type of cardboard used for cereal boxes, is recycled as paper and should be placed with other recyclables instead of the cardboard slot.

Non-recyclable items include building materials, organic matter and soiled paper.

Some people abuse the recycle bins, using them to dispose trash or hazardous waste.

"We get quite a bit of garbage," Ehrmantraut said. "We do fine violators."

She said two rural bins were permanently removed after people repeatedly used them to throw away non-recyclable garbage, such as sheetrock and singles.

The Wing River Township bin was pulled winter 2010, and the Bullard Township bin was pulled January 2011.

Ehrmantraut said they have discussed temporarily pulling other abused bins, hoping to discourage violators. She added that some violators put in paints, chemicals and fluorescent light bulbs, which are hazardous.

Paints, chemicals and cleaners are collected for free at the transfer station, and fluorescent bulbs containing mercury are accepted for a small fee.