Residents accustomed to dropping recyclables in Crow Wing Township will need to adjust to a new routine following the collection site’s closure last week.
The change comes with the new year as the county’s updated recycling policy went into effect, reducing available funding for two of four remaining recycling locations and focusing spending on a single contracted hauler to the two larger drop-off areas — the Crow Wing County Landfill and the Ideal Transfer Station. The city of Nisswa elected to continue providing its recycling site while sharing half the cost with the county, but the increased expense and logistical challenges led Crow Wing Township officials to pull the plug.
Township Supervisor Doug Kern said Tuesday, Jan. 5, they’ve heard from a number of residents upset by the change, particularly those in southwestern Crow Wing County for whom the landfill site is significantly farther away. He said the decision to discontinue stemmed from the new expense for hosting the site coupled with long-standing difficulties with staffing and misuse.
“It just wasn’t feasible for us to keep it going,” Kern said. “ … It’s nice that we still have a recycling program in Crow Wing County, but it just is more inconvenient for people to take their stuff to the areas that are open.”
Leaders in county land services cited ongoing budgetary concerns when proposing the change in 2019, noting state funding hasn’t increased for many years while the demands and costs of running a recycling program have. Without making these changes, Land Services Director Gary Griffin previously said an increase in the $15 solid waste service charge levied annually on property owners may be in the cards.
In June, the board agreed to the proposed policy changes, and on Dec. 29, Crow Wing County commissioners accepted a bid from Pine River-based Waste Partners to provide hauling services. The new contract also makes the switch from single-stream to dual-stream collection at the landfill, meaning residents will be expected to separate cardboard, paper, glass and aluminum. Plastics and tin cans can be kept together.
Ryan Simonson, land services supervisor, said settling on the landfill and Ideal Township locations kept sites accessible in both the northern and southern portions of the county. Nisswa continuing its site adds a third option.
For those in southeastern and south-central Crow Wing County, the difference in drive distance between Crow Wing Township and the Crow Wing County Landfill is negligible. It’s 23 miles from Pine Center to the town hall and 24 miles to the landfill. From Long Lake Township, the course is lengthened by about 8 miles round trip — 10 miles to Crow Wing versus 14 miles to the landfill. But those in the southwest will see their mileage about double. Those in Fort Ripley must travel 26 miles one way to the landfill compared to the 12-mile trip to Crow Wing Township.
“It’s not perfect, but the costs went so high through the roof,” Simonson said. “ … It’s not going to be quite as convenient for everybody, but we’re hoping they can save up their recyclables and every week or two or three they can make a run to the nearest location. … It definitely helps us curb the recycling costs, and then we can continue to offer the program.”
Nisswa City Administrator Jenny Max said Tuesday continuing the program in the city was a desire they heard loud and clear from residents, particularly after a year-long closure six years ago when the previous hauler suddenly removed the bins before the busy Fourth of July weekend.
“We know that the community values having this program and we’d like to do as much as we can to keep it here,” Max said. “Based on the increased use we’re seeing that people do appreciate it. And that’s great. We like to see when things are valued and the community really likes to have something like this.”
Nisswa is considering further investment in its recycling program, she said, including a new location near the city’s sewer plant with expanded offerings such as a brush drop-off site. Max told the county board earlier this year plans were in the works for establishing an enterprise fund to support the costs of the program as well.
Kern held out hope Tuesday the recycling site could make a return to Crow Wing Township. He said township officials are consulting with the neighboring townships of St. Mathias and Fort Ripley about a potential partnership to spread around costs and site staffing.
“We’re still talking with them as far as trying to get it organized to where we can get it manned by the other townships as well as ours,” Kern said. “ … It’s possible. Yeah, it’s possible.”
Recycling is available to Crow Wing County residents in two ways, depending upon where they live. In cities including Brainerd, Baxter, Breezy Point and Pequot Lakes, curbside recycling is required and offered to all residents. As recently as 2014, Crow Wing County offered 12 drop-off sites throughout the county.
Where and how to recycle
There is no charge for people to drop off clean recyclable items at any of the three sites in Crow Wing County. Items must be loose and not contained in plastic bags or any other containers.
Recyclable items include:
Mixed paper: Newspapers, magazines, paper bags, office paper, phone books, junk mail, non-corrugated cardboard (soda and beer packs, cereal boxes, etc.).
Glass: Juice, soda, beer, wine and other glass bottles or jars.
Commingled: Recyclable plastic, including bottles, milk jugs, containers and some packaging; and tin cans.
Land services supervisor Ryan Simonson noted unrecyclable plastics are the most common form of contamination in bins. He said generally speaking, “plastics with a neck” are acceptable, while other food packaging items may not be. Jeff Glewwe, general manager of Waste Partners, provided guidance in an email for what’s acceptable: “Bottles, jars, jugs with a neck, and tubs are made of plastic that can be recycled. (Remove pumps and metal handles, rinse clean. No automotive fluid containers, hazardous material containers, plastic bags, landscape edging, plant containers or plastic furniture.)”
In an email, Glewwe said the code number on the bottom of plastic packaging is often mistaken as a guide to the recyclability of the plastic.
“The code on the bottom is a ‘Resin Identification Code’ that identifies the type of plastic that is used to produce the packaging,” he wrote. “... Commonly accepted plastics for recycling have a 1, 2, 4 or 5 Resin Identification Code.”
Once recyclables are sorted and ready to go, take them to these Crow Wing County locations:
Crow Wing County Landfill, 15728 State Highway 210, Brainerd. Winter hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The landfill is open those hours on Saturdays during the summer months.
Ideal Transfer Station, 33503 W. Island Lake Drive, Pequot Lakes. Open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday and Saturdays during the winter, with Mondays added between June 1 and Sept. 15.
Nisswa Community Center, 25628 Main St., Nisswa. Open 24/7.