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Sorting out recyclables

Lyon County getting the word out on getting materials in the right place

Deb Gau Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere, Lyon County environmental technician and education coordinator, said changes in how shredded paper is recycled will be easier on processing equipment and cleaner for recycling bins. Bags of shredded paper won’t be accepted in curbside recycling, but they can be taken to the Lyon County Household Hazardous Waste drop-off site in Marshall.

MARSHALL — When Lyon County started reconsidering its options for curbside pickup, it brought recycling into the public eye in a big way. Now, the county has a new curbside recycling schedule ready to start on Monday, and new recycling bins for each of the drop sites serving area communities and rural residents.

But in addition to those changes, county environmental staff are also trying to get the word out about the right way to recycle. Newsletters and updates on the county website are all part of the effort to remind people what materials can be recycled, and how.

“People have had a lot of really great questions,” said Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere, environmental technician and education coordinator for the Lyon County environmental department.

When Lyon County was getting ready to approve a new recycling pickup contract, the county environmental department sent out newsletters with information on pickup schedules, and what materials will be accepted for recycling. Bethke-DeJaeghere said the environmental department plans to send out future newsletters with more information. And once planned updates to the Lyon County website go live, recycling program information will be available at the tap of a smartphone button, she said.

Right now, improving participation in county recycling is “more about the finer details,” educating people about what recyclables are accepted, and making sure they’re clean and unbagged, Bethke-DeJaeghere said.

While the Lyon County recycling program only accepts certain materials, like glass containers, paper, cans and certain kinds of plastic in its single-sort recycling, there are other programs that can recycle or dispose of a variety of waste.

Curbside bins and community drop sites

One of the challenges that area waste haulers and processors say the recycling industry faces is contamination, when items that don’t belong in single-sort get into loads of recyclable materials. That’s one reason why it’s important to follow recycling guidelines when putting out the recycling bin every other week.

Bethke-DeJaeghere said Lyon County only accepts aluminum and steel cans, glass bottles and jars, paper, cardboard, paperboard like cereal and beer boxes, food and beverage cartons, and number 1, number 2 and number 5 plastic. Those types of plastic include most food and drink containers and containers for kitchen, laundry and bath products, she said.

“The lids should stay on everything,” Bethke-DeJaeghere said, and people don’t have to peel the labels off containers. However, all recyclable containers should be rinsed out before they go in the bin.

Bethke-DeJaeghere said recyclables like food containers don’t have to be spotlessly clean. However, “If it smells, or if it’s wet or sticky, you’re doing something wrong,” she said.

Recycling beyond the curb

Some kinds of materials — including shredded paper and some types of plastic — won’t be accepted in curbside recycling bins or at community drop sites. For example, paper shreds are a big problem for the facilities that process recyclables.

“It falls through their equipment,” Bethke-DeJaeghere said. It would also make a mess of community recycling bins. “There would be shredded paper all over the inside.”

However, the Lyon County Household Hazardous Waste drop-off site, located at the county public works building at the Lyon County fairgrounds, can help with a lot of materials that can’t be put in the recycling bin or the landfill.

“Through this facility, we do a lot of our recycling,” she said. Residents can drop off a wide range of materials, from shredded paper and paint, to old mattresses, styrofoam, fluorescent lights and electronics. “It’s been working quite well. It only takes five minutes to walk in,” and unload items for recycling, she said.

From the HHW facility, items are collected to go to recycling or disposal, or are broken down for materials by local recycling programs. Some programs are fundraisers for organizations helping people with disabilities, Bethke-DeJaeghere said.

Clear plastic bags of shredded paper can be dropped off at the HHW facility to help support Advance Opportunities of Marshall. The paper shreds go to a business in the Cosmos area, and are sold to help make insulation, she said.

The HHW facility works with Advance Opportunities to break down old mattresses, box springs, car seats and books for materials that can be sold and recycled, Bethke-DeJaeghere said. They also work with the Canby Developmental Achievement Center to recycle copper from cables and strings of Christmas lights.

The environmental department has partnered with Avera Marshall for a safe needle disposal program. And starting Jan. 1, the HHW facility will accept number 6 styrofoam for recycling.

Bethke-DeJaeghere said number 6 styrofoam is the kind that comes molded into shapes as a packing material, and can be picked apart into tiny round balls. The environmental department now has equipment that can condense the styrofoam down into 70-pound bales for recycling.

“It’s another way of diverting stuff from the landfill,” Bethke-DeJaeghere said. Styrofoam doesn’t degrade in the ground like other kinds of trash, so it’s good to throw less of it out.

Other materials accepted at the HHW center include certain types of hazardous chemicals, aerosol products, fluorescent lights, and TVs, VCRs and DVD players.

“Any of that electronic stuff, we take here,” Bethke-DeJaeghere said.

Old computers and laptops can also be dropped off for the ResQ Zone program, where they will have their hard drives erased and be refurbished. “They go to families who can’t afford them,” Bethke-DeJaeghere said.

The HHW disposal center is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month. Bethke-DeJaeghere said county environmental staff can help answer people’s questions about what is accepted at the facility. Residents should call (507) 532-8210 to learn more.

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