A Retrofitted Minnesota County MRF Sees Big Increases in Residential Recycling

A Retrofitted Minnesota County MRF Sees Big Increases in Residential Recycling

Only three months into operation in its retrofitted single-stream facility and McLeod County, Minn.’s residential recycling collection is up 20 percent.

The rural county, which is located about 60 miles west of the Twin Cities, had invested $4.4 million into the design-build project with an expectation the streamlined system would reinvigorate its stagnant numbers on source-separated materials.

“We were anticipating to go over 10,000 tons with in the first 18 months of start-up, but if we continue to do the quantities that we are doing now, we may be over 11,000 tons by the end of our first operating year,” says Sarah Young, solid waste coordinator for McLeod County, adding that the materials recovery facility located in Hutchinson, Minn., had been collecting about 6,000 tons from its commercial and residential customers located throughout nine cities and 14 townships.

“Although we had continued to do a lot of education, we just couldn’t get those numbers to climb from where they were at and in looking at what was working in other cities and counties throughout Minnesota and the nation, we thought single stream was the next step,” she says.

Completed by Burns & McDonnell’s solid waste and resource recovery group in April, the retrofit from a five-sort system has generated other impressive figures: it quadrupled the processing capacity from approximately 5,000 tons to 20,000 tons of material per year; and it doubled the number of Adult Training & Habilitation Center staff at the facility, providing more than 20 jobs.

Robert W. Craggs, solid waste and resource recovery manager for Burns & McDonnell, says his firm helped the county save an estimated $1 million by reusing portions of the facility’s equipment and building infrastructure. Craggs had assisted the county with the planning, design and construction of the original facility in 2004.

Approached by communities wanting to switch to single stream for more convenient recycling for their residents, McLeod County solid waste officials were looking to facilitate the transition in most cost effective way.

“There were some modifications to the existing building, upgrading of the equipment and adding a new building addition that is the new tipping floor, all on the same site,” Craggs says. “They were accepting and processing materials the whole time while we were doing the construction so it was quite unique in that respect.”

Maintaining an operation during the nine months of construction was critical for the county, Young says.

“It was really important because we wanted to keep the revenue and jobs here locally,” she says. “We transformed our storage warehouse basically into a manual sorting area and so we were able to keep the material coming in and to keep processing.”

The retrofit, funded entirely through McLeod County’s Solid Waste Abatement Fund, includes a 60-ft.-by-75-ft. tipping floor that enables trucks to back in and dump recyclables onto the floor. It’s an improvement over the drive through tipping area in the old building, she says. 

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