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Lyon Co. seeks grant funds for recycling program

MARSHALL — Since using community recycling drop sites last November, the Lyon County Environmental Department has pulled 210 tons of material, including 1,800 pounds per load. Now, the Environmental Department is now looking to apply for a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to continue to improve its recycling programs.

Lyon County Environmental Administrator Roger Schroeder delivered a report to the Lyon County board of commissioners on Tuesday.

He said with the grant, there are three areas they would concentrate on: improving the recycling program through the purchase of larger carts, purchasing bins to help homes begin composting and fighting the battle against plastic with refillable water bottles for students.

When the community moved to recycling pickup every other week, many residents said they just don’t have enough space to last two weeks worth. Schroeder said most people have 65-gallon carts, but if they move to a larger container — with the largest being 96 gallons — they can decrease the tonage of recycling while increasing opportunities to create additional funding.

“We’re looking at putting in a grant request to purchase 1,400 carts and the method behind that is about 55% of the people participate in recycling by putting their cart out and we want to get into the hands of 40% of those households on larger capacity carts. By adding that additional capacity, there’s a possibility of gaining additonal funds,” Schroeder said. “We’ve been hearing from residents that when their bin is full, maybe half of them are choosing to throw the rest in the garbage and the other half are choosing to go to the recycling site and drop it off. Our tonage is down for recycling compared to where we were at this time in 2019, we’re actually down a couple of hundred tons, so what we’re hearing from the public and the capacity of adding the larger-sized recycling carts makes sense.”

The second area Schroeder said they are looking into is home composting throughout their eight-county region, with a plan of getting 2% of households to start doing composting in their gardens.

“We do recognize that food waste is a major part of what we’re taking to the landfill and it is a good thing for our landfill because it breaks down easy, but if we could inspire people to divert waste and use it in their own backyard, it would much better than trucking it all the way to the landfill,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder added with the grant, they would purchase 800 composting carts and have those who are interested in it purchase them at a discounted rate. He added there are several types of composting bins to choose from, whether it’s on a rack and you turn it or removing the bottom of a recycling cart and plant it in the ground to put the compost in.

Schroeder said by starting at 2% of households with composting, they can get a gauge of how many people are really interested and willing to participate in it and work towards making a difference in the landfills instead of asking for a larger-scaled project.

“If 100% of people did this, yes,” Schroeder said. “Our goal to start with just 2% this is a way to test the waters and see if people are really interested in trying to do some different diverting mechanics rather than jump into possibly doing a larger scale organics project.”

The final project the Environmental Department is looking at is providing every high school and middle school student in the county with a refillable water bottle to help cut down on the use of plastics.

“We really struggle with plastic and based on what I’ve heard, I don’t think we’re going to be able to recycle our way out of the plastic problem,” Schroeder said. “We could purchase a refillable water bottle for every high school and middle school student in the county and it would come with information about the concerns with plastic and the oceans, etc. and make a dent in that. The consensus from the teachers that we’ve talked to is that only about 20% of students are bringing refillable water bottles already, so if we can get everybody on board, just looking at the all of the schools in the area, that’s a possible diversion of 160,000 bottles a year just from everyone switching to refillable water bottles. Also most of the schools have a refillable station, including some of the private schools.”

Schroeder said the total dollar request from the state is $150,000 and the grant award must have a local match of 25%, which can be from either cash or in-kind services. The total cost of the project is around $200,000.

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