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Wrenshall students build new recycling center

Wrenshall High School’s industrial arts teacher Chris Gustafson and students Charles Eckdahl, Kadin Kotiranta, Christian Skutevik and David Zinter take a break from building a new recycling center in Blackhoof Township. Contributed Photo 1 / 2
Wrenshall first-grader Lila Dalen uses the new recycling bins at Wrenshall schools. During the first year of the Green Schools Project, Wrenshall Schools used grant funding to purchase 37 recycling bin kits for each classroom in order to create a more consistent recycling program — and students are actively participating. Contributed Photo 2 / 2

Carlton County’s unstaffed recycling centers have been in use for over 20 years. The recycling centers are a place where Carlton County residents can easily bring their recyclable materials, which is very helpful for those who choose to skip the bill of curbside garbage service and haul their own.

This fall, the Blackhoof unstaffed recycling center was given a much-needed upgrade, thanks to the collaboration between Carlton County, Blackhoof Township and Wrenshall High School’s industrial arts class, taught by Chris Gustafson.

Blackhoof had two old, worn down and undersized recycling centers: a 10x14-foot shed and a 12x20-foot shed. These were replaced by a single 20x26-foot garage with good lighting, a 42-inch service door for patrons, and a nice overhead door for the recycling contractor to utilize. The county provided the necessary materials and equipment, Blackhoof Township provided the concrete slab, and the high school class provided the builders. It was a win-win situation: Blackhoof got a new recycling center, and Wrenshall’s industrial arts class got to work on a real building project.

Karola Dean, Carlton County resource and recycling coordinator, came to Gustafson with the project and he couldn’t pass it up.

“You can only do so many things in the classroom,” said Gustafson, “so being able to work on a real building project, like this one, is such a great experience for these students.”

Charles Eckdahl, Christian Skutevik, David Zinter and Kadin Kotiranta were the students tasked with building this recycling shed. These students are also part of Wrenshall’s YES! (Youth Energy Summit) team, which is also run by Gustafson. YES! Is a program that has students working on a variety of projects related to the environment, energy opportunities and issues in rural Minnesota. This recycling center project is one such project. It started in September when the concrete slab was put in, then Gustafson and his students went to work, completing the project on Nov. 21. The goal for the group was to complete the bulk of the shed and have county maintenance work on whatever wasn’t complete.

Wrenshall also participates in the Green Schools Project, Carlton County’s school recycling and waste reduction grant program. The Green Schools Project, which was created in 2015, is focused on increasing school recycling rates and decreasing the amount of waste that schools produce. Each school who applies can get up to $2,000 in funding. This money comes from SCORE (Select Committee On Recycling and the Environment) funds. SCORE is funded through taxes on our waste.

Carlton County received additional SCORE funds in 2014. Heather Cunningham, Carlton County zoning and environmental services administrator, comments on how they are being spent:

“Starting in 2014, additional SCORE funds were allocated annually to every county to improve recycling rates throughout the state,” she explained. “In Carlton County, these additional funds are used for three programs. The funds are used to increase the annual operating grant to each of the five staffed recycling centers. This resulted in an increase in the hours each of the sheds are open for recycling. The additional funds are also allocated to the new Green Schools Project. The program was developed and implemented by Minnesota GreenCorps members. Lastly, the additional funds are being used to replace aging and undersized unstaffed recycling sheds located in the county.”

During the first year of the Green Schools Project, Wrenshall used the grant to purchase 37 recycling bin kits for each classroom in order to create a more consistent recycling program. Each bin kit is clearly labeled for paper, plastic, and trash. However, before Wrenshall participated in the Green Schools Project, they worked with Dalen to change some of their waste management and collection practices. The result of their work was an increase of 60 percent in recyclable material collected!

“The staff and students at Wrenshall are doing a great job tackling a variety of environmental issues in the community,” said Dalen.

Participating in the Green Schools Project, funded through SCORE, has increased Wrenshall’s recycling numbers, and their knowledge on recycling and waste reduction in the school. Their YES! team is also doing great things in the environmental realm. Whether it’s building a recycling center for the town or designing an electric car, they are working hard and having fun helping the school, town and environment.

“Carlton County Zoning would like to thank the Carlton County commissioners, county maintenance, Blackhoof Township and Wrenshall School for making this project possible,” said Dalen.

The Carlton County Zoning and Environmental Services department manages the county’s solid waste and recycling programs, including outreach and education, and management of the Carlton County Transfer Station. They can be reached at 218-384-9176 or visit for more information.