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Public officials celebrate state investments in AI robotic sorting tech, enabling one of the largest curbside co-collection food scrap recycling programs in the nation and expanding recyclable recovery
NEWPORT, MN, July 17, 2023 – Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy (R&E) celebrated the completion of innovative enhancements at the R&E Center, a 450,000 ton per year solid waste processing facility in Newport. These enhancements, which include a building addition and next- generation technology and equipment to sort more materials from the trash, will support the launch of one of the largest residential co-collection food scrap recycling programs in the country. To commemorate this significant milestone, a celebration event and facility tour was held on Monday, July 17, at the Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy Center in Newport, with state, county and local officials.
“We are excited to bring a second life to material that would have normally ended up in landfills or incinerators,” said R&E Board Chair and Washington County Commissioner Fran Miron. “By capturing food scraps and organic-rich material with these new recovery systems, we will produce valuable resources that power homes through the creation of renewable natural gas and improve soil quality in our communities. This innovative system meets recycling standards set by the state and contributes to important county recycling goals.”
The food scraps pickup program launch and expansion of the facility’s recycling recovery system signify a significant step forward in the counties’ progress toward Minnesota’s climate initiatives and 75% recycling goal, underscoring R&E’s commitment to creating vibrant, healthy communities without waste.
“The Twin Cities metro area continues to generate more trash and our landfills are filling up,” said Katrina Kessler, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “To reduce waste, we must make recycling and composting as convenient as possible for residents. This innovative program in Ramsey and Washington counties helps us meet our goals to reduce waste and demonstrates Minnesota’s leadership in developing cutting-edge solutions that protect the environment and our communities.”
Funding for the facility enhancements was provided in part through the 2020 Minnesota State bonding bill, with $7 million allocated from state funding. Along with supporting the food scraps pickup program, the facility expanded its recyclable recovery system. Together, the new processing equipment and the food scrap pickup program will divert a total of 60,000 tons of valuable material from landfills or incineration for recycling annually. To put it in perspective, that’s enough recyclables and food scraps to fill Allianz Field three times.
Food scraps, such as fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells and bones, make up 20% of the waste generated in Ramsey and Washington counties.
To move this waste up the Minnesota waste hierarchy, the counties developed the food scraps pickup program, a free residential program aimed at recovering food scraps and transforming them into soil instead of becoming waste.
“Curbside co-collection, meaning putting food scraps bags in the same bin as trash, is an efficient and cost-effective method of collecting residential food scraps. All Ramsey and Washington County residents will be able to participate in this program at no cost, no matter the housing type,” stated Victoria Reinhardt, R&E Board Vice Chair and Ramsey County Commissioner. “This model prioritizes equity and results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions when compared to other methods of food scrap collection.”
The program is currently in its pilot phase and will soon be rolled out to residents in Ramsey and Washington counties in phases.
About Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy
Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy (R&E) operates through a public joint powers board and is the organization through which Minnesota’s Ramsey and Washington counties collaborate to achieve environmental, economic and social benefits through innovative and responsible waste management. R&E administers programs aimed at preventing waste and increasing recycling. Additionally, R&E owns and operates the R&E Center, where all trash from residents and businesses in the two counties is processed to recover value. R&E’s vision is “vibrant, healthy communities without waste.”
Sam Ferguson | 763-760-0633