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 by 2030. 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.
The waste management hierarchy lists priorities for how to handle waste in Minnesota.
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.
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 2015 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 2023 Impacts:
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.