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County finds new way to recycle food waste

A new program may change the way the people of Carlton County dispose of residential food waste.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Carlton County Board, Zoning and Environmental Services Director Heather Cunningham proposed that the county implement a residential food waste collection program at the Transfer Station. She explained the program would allow residents to bag food waste in special compostable bags supplied by the county and deposit them free of charge in a dumpster at the Transfer Station to be hauled away for composting.  

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Cunningham said the idea originated with a suggestion made on the Transfer Station Customer Service Survey last year, as well as in discussions between her and the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee.

Cunningham stated that approximately 30-40 percent of household garbage consists of food waste.

“That (food waste) can be diverted and used for compost instead of going into landfills,” said Cunningham.

The food waste would be collected in a 2-yard dumpster at the Transfer Station, which would be emptied weekly by a contracted and licensed hauler and transported to the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) Compost Facility. Though there is no disposal fee to be charged, the hauler would charge for the dumpster rental and transportation costs to WLSSD at an annual cost of what Cunningham estimated to be around $1,200.

“We anticipate approximately 1,000 households to participate annually,” added Cunningham, “at a cost of approximately $1,200 for compostable bags. The goal of the program would be not to exceed $4,000 in expenses, including advertisement of the program.”

Cunningham assured commissioners that the cost of the program would be budget neutral, since the county stands to save some $5,000 in paint transportation and disposal costs this year. She explained a law was passed in May 2013 requiring manufacturers of paint to establish a Paint Stewardship Program this year to pay for the bulk of containers, transportation and disposal of paint at the Carlton County Hazardous Waste Facility.

She said the city of Duluth has had considerable success with its food waste collection program and currently has six drop-off sites.

Commissioner Bob Olean questioned if it would be possible to the have food waste dumpster emptied more frequently during the warm summer months.

“Otherwise, it will get ripe in a real hurry,” he said.

Cunningham said if food odors become a problem, she can look at having the waste material picked up twice a week if necessary.

Commissioner Dick Brenner said he wasn’t certain that a lot of people would take advantage of the service because they can currently have their household food waste picked up curbside with their garbage. Cunningham said she thinks people would embrace the program because it’s more environmentally friendly.

“At least this is a place to start,” she said. “In fact, many large cities around the United States are already moving to curbside food waste recycling.”

Commissioners voted unanimously in support of the plan.

In other business to come before the Board, commissioners authorized the refilling of a full-time deputy appraiser position in the county assessor’s office. County Assessor Marci Moreland explained that the deputy appraiser hired in October 2013, who came here from a similar post in Chisago County, has decided to return to Chisago County, leaving the local position open once again.

The Board gave the go ahead to County Engineer Mike Tardy to request that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) conduct speed studies on seven segments of roadways within Carlton County, including  a 2.2 mile section of Freeman Road; a segment of 14th Street from Tall Pine Lane to Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College; a stretch of East Harney Road from Church Road to County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 1 in Esko; a section of CSAH 1 from Wilhelmina Drive to the Munger Trail in Carlton; a section of CSAH 3 from Douglas Road to Stine Drive in Carlton; a section of CSAH 61 from West Kasper Road to Trunk Highway 73 in Moose Lake; and a section of West Moorhead Road from Highway 210 to Cary Road.

Tardy explained that although the county may recommend that speed studies be done, that doesn’t guarantee just when that will happen or what the outcome will be. He said in the end the decision whether to alter the posted limit is generally not left up to the local authority but MnDOT itself according to what that agency determines to be a safe and reasonable speed limit. There are a few exceptions that allow a local authority to reduce the speed limit to 35 miles per hour in a rural residential district where houses are spaced less than 300 feet apart for a minimum distance of a quarter mile; to 25 miles per hour on a residential roadway on a city street or town road whose total length is up to a half mile; or to 15-30 miles per hour in school zones or work zones.