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'Dos' and 'don'ts' at Carlton County recycling sheds

The Carlton County Transfer stations recycles unwanted electronics for $9 per item. Andee Erickson / Pine Journal

Jeff Bergeron, who has worked at the Carlton Recycling Shed for three years, shared some of the most common recycling "don'ts" he sees residents mistake for "dos."

Plastic flower pots, cat litter containers and plastic storage containers are not recyclable at the county recycling sheds, though residents often assume they are. Cloquet Sanitary Services applies these same rules.

Each garbage hauler and facility handles recycled materials a little differently, which is why Karola Dalen, the resource and recycling coordinator for Carlton County, recommends county residents contact their garbage hauler or center if they have a question about properly recycling.

"I'm always a contact as well. If you're not sure who to ask, they can call me," Dalen said.

But there are a few general tips anyone can benefit from remembering. For starters, food containers must be cleaned of any food residue — even those sticky peanut butter jars. They don't have to be sterile, Dalen said, but it's important to scrape them clean.

"The cleaner the batch of recyclables is, the more valuable it is to the market," she said.

Those greasy bits of a pizza box? Rip those out and toss them in the garbage. But the rest can hit the recycling.

When wondering what plastics can be recycled, Dalen said it's best to go by shape instead of plastic numbers. Bottles, jars, jugs and tubs, like yogurt and sour cream containers, are the safest bets. The recycling sheds take plastics numbers 1-7.

And although many styrofoam products have the recycling symbol, don't attempt to recycle them in Carlton County, Dalen said.

"There are very few facilities in the country that recycle styrofoam," she said.

Other items that can't be recycled at county recycling sheds and Cloquet Sanitary Services include ceramics, broken hangers, disposable silverware and plates (unless compostable), the lids to plastic bottles and 5-gallon pails.

Labels on tin cans, plastic and glass, as well as stickers and tape on cardboard, do not require removal. However, cardboard with a wax or plastic lamination can't be recycled at the Carlton County recycling sheds. This includes juice and milk cartons.

Most local haulers do not accept these cartons either, Dalen said. However, residents who hire Waste Management for curbside pickup can and should recycle these laminated cardboards and cartons, according to its website.

Using county recycling sheds

Other errors recycling shed staff see often involve residents leaving their unsorted recyclables at staffed sheds when they're not open.

"You're not supposed to leave recyclables for the attendants to take care of," Dalen said. "It's for safety reasons, No. 1, because people put lots of hazards in their garbage: needles, broken glass, biohazard."

The bigger problem is illegal garbage dumping at sheds, even on roads around the county.

"We still have this misconception that it's expensive to get rid of electronics," Dalen said, while pointing out that the Carlton County Transfer Station recycles electronics for $9 per item.

Everything else, with the exception of sheet metal, costs nothing to recycle.

Carlton County recycling sheds

Staffed recycling sheds:

• Barnum, behind Fire Hall;

• Carlton, on Minnesota Highway 45, just south of Birch Avenue;

• Esko/Thompson, next to Town Hall;

• Moose Lake, next to arena;

• Perch Lake, next to Town Hall.

2-6 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

• Carlton County Transfer Station

8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Unstaffed, self-serve recycling sheds:

• Blackhoof, Blackhoof Fire Department and Town Hall on County Road 5;

• Cromwell, 1372 Minnesota Highway 73;

• Holyoke, Holyoke Town Hall on County Road 8;

• Kettle River, 3987 Cedar St.;

• Mahtowa, County Road 61 and Mahtowa Avenue;

• Wright, on Pacific Avenue.

Source: Carlton County,