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Moorhead council gives green light to single-sort recycling

MOORHEAD—The city is now on a course that could double the amount of material collected in its residential recycling program.

The City Council voted 8-0 Monday, Sept. 12, to go ahead with a plan to start single-stream curbside recycling by July 1, 2017.

The city now uses a system in which recyclables—metals, plastic, cardboard and glass—are separated by residents into bags or other containers to be collected.

Going to the single-stream system requires the city to use $1.5 million from the Sanitation Fund Reserve account to buy two automatic loading and one rear-loading truck for $660,000; 11,000 95-gallon totes for $530,000 (for home use); and 300 dumpsters for collecting recyclables from most apartment complexes.

"It will take a little bit of initial capital investment (to buy) the right equipment to do the job right," Public Works Director Steve Moore said.

The city is seeking a $250,000 grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to help pay for the large residential totes. The sale of three Kaan trough loaders is expected to bring in another $225,000 to bring the total cash outlay for the project to about $982,850, according to materials shared with the council.

The program would be run by the current staff and the city will contract with MinnKota Recycling to process and sell the recyclables.

Household collection schedules would not change, but the fee for curbside collection, now $2.84 a month, would rise.

The amount of the new fee hasn't been determined. Moore said it could range from $3.80 to $5.50 a month.

Moore said the extra charge is nominal.

"You go to Starbucks, you don't even bat an eye spending $5" for a cup of coffee, so another $4 a month is not much, Moore told the council.

But Councilwoman Heidi Durand said people who already keep their garbage output low shouldn't have to pay the same amount as those who don't. She asked if there was a way to shift some of the costs on to people who generate more garbage.

But Moore said a garbage rate study would be time-consuming. The potential problems of doing a study had Councilman Mike Hulett declare he wasn't in favor of further study of rates.

"We will do everything we can to minimize the impact to residents," Moore promised. "We'll do our best."

The city expects to double its curbside recycling from 510 tons to 1,000 tons, diverting that material from the landfill, according to a Sept. 2 letter to the MPCA as part of the city's grant application.

Moorhead's average annual recycling tonnage from 2011 to 2015 has been 2,311 tons. The transition to single-sort recycling, bringing in material from multi-family homes, is expect to divert an extra 700 tons a year, bringing the total to about 3,011 tons, the grant application said.

The single-sort bins will also have radio frequency identification technology, which will allow the city to track their usage and target education efforts in neighborhoods with low participation rates, the grant application said.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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