About

Who We Are

Ramsey and Washington counties have worked together to manage waste responsibly since the 1980s. Today, the counties work jointly through Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy (R&E). Through R&E, the counties strive to protect health and the environment and meet the state’s 75% recycling goal. R&E views the waste stream as a resource stream and works to extract maximum value from discarded materials.

Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy is governed by the joint powers R&E Board, which is composed of commissioners from the two counties. Read more about the R&E Board here. R&E serves over 800,000 residents and 70,000 businesses.

Vision

Vibrant, healthy communities without waste

Mission

Enhancing public health and the environment by creating value from waste through partnerships

Values

Commitment
Committed to public health, safety and the environment

Teamwork
Making the biggest impact by working beyond ourselves

Respect
Treating the earth and all people with esteem, dignity and compassion

Trust
Maintaining diligent stewardship of public trust and funding, with our work informed by research and science

Innovation
Focusing on excellence, continual improvement and adaptation in pursuit of the mission

The waste management hierarchy lists priorities for how to handle waste in Minnesota

The waste management hierarchy lists priorities for how to handle waste in Minnesota.

What We Do

Waste Reduction in the Community

The waste management hierarchy, shown above, lists waste management practices from most to least favorable. The State of Minnesota uses the hierarchy to make decisions about handling waste.

Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy (R&E) works aggressively to move waste up the hierarchy. Robust commercial and residential recycling is in place in both counties, with both recycling nearly 50% of waste. R&E and the counties collaborate with their communities through education and engagement, technical assistance and expertise and financial incentives. These efforts maximize waste reduction, encourage material reuse and ensure the highest rate of quality recycling.

Recovering Value from Waste 

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. 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 about 450,000 tons of trash per year. At the facility, 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.

R&E Center 2021 Impacts: 

  • Fuel produced at the R&E Center and delivered to Xcel power plants produced enough electricity to power 12,300 homes for a year.
  • Over 13,000 tons of metal were recovered from the trash for recycling.
  • 95,052 fewer tons of carbon dioxide were produced than if the trash had been landfilled – equivalent to taking over 20,000 cars off the road.

Processing waste to recover energy and resources is preferred over landfilling according to federal and state law. While R&E and Ramsey and Washington counties work towards a circular economy where waste is designed out of the system, waste-to-energy is an important part of our solid waste management system.

The R&E Center is a processing facility that produces fuel for waste-to-energy facilities in Red Wing and Mankato. The R&E Center is not a waste-to-energy facility, but is part of Minnesota’s waste-to-energy system.

  • Every ton of trash processed by waste-to-energy generates 30 times less greenhouse gases than a ton of trash put into a landfill. Decomposing garbage in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
  • Waste-to-energy creates value from today’s discarded resources instead of storing them in landfills at the expense of future generations. Waste in landfills poses perpetual environmental and health risks, including risks to groundwater. Landfilling may seem cheaper in the short-run, but managing these risks and paying for the consequences costs more in the long-run. Minnesota has already spent over $400 million cleaning up landfills.
  • Waste-to-energy uses less landfill space by reducing waste volume by 90%, leaving 10% as ash.
  • Waste-to-energy is more efficient at recovering energy than landfill gas capture. A ton of processed trash creates enough electricity to run a house for 21 days, compared to only 3 days for landfill gas from a ton of decomposing trash.

For more information on waste-to-energy, see this fact sheet.