Aggressive master plan to handle solid waste in Anoka County

An aggressive plan to deal with solid waste, notably recycling, is outlined in the 2012 Anoka County solid waste master plan.

The plan was unanimously approved by the Anoka County Board March 27 on the recommendation of its Waste Management and Energy Committee.

The document contains the goals, policies and objective that will guide the planning and management of solid waste, generated within Anoka County, through the year 2030.

The plan updates the county’s previous solid waste master plan that was adopted in 2005.

The 2012 solid waste master plan was a mandate of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and it has to be submitted to the MPCA commissioner for approval.

Preparation of the plan by staff of the county’s integrated waste management and community health and environmental services departments as well as the Anoka County Attorney’s Office also involved the Anoka County Solid Waste Abatement Advisory Team, which includes representatives of each municipality in the county.

According to Carolyn Smith, solid waste abatement specialist, many challenges lie ahead as the amount of waste generated by an ever-increasing population continues to grow.”

“The plan commits Anoka County to lead by example in reducing the toxicity and the amount of waste it generates, recycling the maximum amount possible and managing any remaining waste in an appropriate method for the particular waste generated,” Smith said.

“The plan outlines an aggressive five-year plan, which will require the coordinated efforts of the state, region, residents, businesses, municipalities, county departments and the waste management industry.”

The county has consistently been recycling 50 percent of its waste stream and fully using the processing capacity at the Elk River Resource Processing Plant, Smith said.

Under the plan county residents and businesses will have to recycle 221,597 tons in 2030 to meet the county’s state mandated goal of 60 percent recycling, she said.

That is a significant increase, according to Brad Fields, county integrated waste management director.

But none of the solid waste that is being sent to the processing plan in Elk River, where it is converted into electricity for Great River Energy, which operates the plant, has been landfilled since September 2011, Fields said.

Whatever is not converted to electricity is recycled in some other way, he said.

“It is amazing what the facility has accomplished,” said Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah.

According to County Commissioner Jim Kordiak, chairman of the Waste Management and Energy Committee, the county has excellent cooperation and working relationships with its municipalities.

His hope is that the county, through the annual funding allocation for recycling that it receives from the state, will be able to help cities expand their recycling programs “for the common good,” Kordiak said.

The plan will require “us to do some things differently,” he said.

According to County Commissioner Matt Look, in a recent conversation with Ramsey Mayor Bob Ramsey, the mayor told him the city would be interested in creating a recycling complex similar to the one in Coon Rapids where residents could take items for recycling on a regular basis each week.

In speaking to a waste hauler operating in the county, Sivarajah said that commercial recycling is expected to expand because of demand.

To achieve the plan’s goals will require support from the state, which has not always been forthcoming, according to County Commissioner Dan Erhart.

“The state has put laws into place, but it has not enforced them,” Erhart said.

The plan spells out four main goals.

• Protect and conserve – manage waste in a manner that will protect the environment and public health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve energy and natural resources.

• Integrate the parts – manage waste in an integrated waste management system to minimize landfilling, emphasize reducing waste generation and toxicity and increase reuse, recycling and source-separated organic-related management.

• Manage waste cost effectively and internalize future costs – maximize environmental benefits, minimize long-term financial liability and provide incentives that encourage waste to be managed as high as possible on the waste hierarchy.

• Share responsibility and cost equity among those who benefit from the system, including producers, retailers, consumers, government, citizens and the waste industry.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]