Two counties in metro Minnesota lead in garbage reduction

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ST. PAUL - Washington and Ramsey counties are the greenest in the metropolitan Minnesota area, according to one measure of environmentally friendly practices.

And they are poised to get even greener, as they consider plans to send less waste to landfills and boost recycling rates.

According to data provided by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency last month, Washington County sent less material to landfills than any other metro county in 2014, the latest year for which data are available. The county sent only 10 percent of its waste stream to landfills. Ramsey County was next, with just 15 percent.

One reason those two counties send so little to landfills is that they burn their garbage.

The counties formed the Ramsey/Washington County Recycling and Energy Board, which funnels garbage to a processing plant in Newport. The board previously contracted with a private owner of the plant but bought the plant for $24 million at the beginning of 2016.

The plant sorts and shreds the waste to be trucked to Red Wing and Mankato, where it is burned for electricity.