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Ramsey and Washington counties recognize that there is often value to the items that people put in the trash. R&E sees the waste stream as a resource stream. This resulted in the 2016 purchase of the Recycling & Energy Center (R&E Center), located in Newport, Minnesota. All trash generated by individuals and businesses in the two counties is delivered here, where R&E works to recover value.
The R&E Center manages more than 450,000 tons of trash per year. At the R&E Center, trash is processed to recover recyclable metals and make fuel for producing electricity. Through this system, R&E is maximizing the recovery of resources and diverting as much as possible from landfills. The R&E Center is the only facility of its kind in the state, and, in 2019, nearly 90% of waste in the two counties was diverted from landfills.
When trash arrives at the R&E Center, it is tipped on a floor the size of a football field. Conveyor belts carry the material through a series of shredders, screens, and magnets that recover recyclable metals from the trash and process the remaining material into a fuel source (called refuse-derived fuel) that is used in Xcel power plants in Red Wing and Mankato to generate electricity. The R&E Center processes over 1,000 tons of trash each day, enough to cover a football field six feet deep.