LEADER-Cass County could end up with fewer recycling options if the public doesn't start to read and abide by the rules on the recycle bins.

KDR has given Cass County 60 days notice they wish to cancel their contract to operate the county's main garbage and recycling transfer station north of Pine River and to haul waste to the Twin Cities from there.

They cited the fact that under the current contract, they do not believe they can make a profit on the operation.

The cause is two-fold. One problem is that the recycling market has declined to the point it no longer is money-making, but now is costing them money. The other is rapidly rising contamination in recycle bins.

Too many people are putting garbage, including fish guts, into recycle bins. Too many are failing to remove plastic bags from recyclables before putting them into the bins. Both cause whole loads to be rejected when recyclables are hauled to Twin Cities Material Recovery Facility.

Each rejected recycle load ends up in a landfill and costs a $1,500 penalty.

Twin Cities Material Recovery uses mechanical sorting machines, which depend upon items being loose to do the sorting. It cannot sort things contained inside a plastic bag, hence the penalty and rejection.

Cass County owns three garbage and recycling transfer stations at Pine River, May Township and Walker/Hackensack, which is 3 miles north of Hackensack off Highway 371.

In addition the Leech Lake Band owns one site. Slagle Transfer owns one site east of Longville. Crooked Lake Township has a site by Outing. These have a site manager who can ensure garbage goes into garbage bins and can ensure people dropping off material put them into the right bins without contaminants. Some garbage haulers also accept recyclables and can prevent contaminants from being placed in with recyclable materials.

The problem is at the 27 recycling bin sites around the county where there is no oversight. One already has been closed inside the city of Pine River because of contamination. Others could follow, KDR officials said.

KDR recommended the county divide their waste processing into three contracts. One would cover management of the three county-owned transfer stations. The second would cover management of the remote recycle bin locations. The third would cover hauling all collected garbage to Elk River and recyclables to Twin Cities Material Recovery.

The county is in the process of preparing specifications to seek requests for proposal in these three categories, with a plan to open bids July 9 and have the county board award contracts July 16.