$43M organic recycling center proposed in Newport, Minnesota

The proposed facility would be an addition to the Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy Center, enabling it to pull food scraps out of the waste stream for the first time.

The Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy Center in Newport, Minnesota, is about to take a $43 million dive into organics recycling, reports the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

The addition to the center would enable it to pull food scraps out of the waste stream for the first time. According to a proposal, the project would increase recycling, decrease the amount of garbage being burned and reduce material sent to landfills.

“The purpose here is to get more value out of waste,” Zack Hansen, Ramsey County’s Environmental Health director, told the Pioneer Press.

The plan was submitted to the Newport Planning Commission at its Aug. 13 meeting. It calls for a 40-foot-tall addition to the existing facility.

The proposal would bring the public cost of the center to $82 million — $24 million to buy it in 2016, $15 million in improvement projects, and $43 million the new organic-waste expansion. The upgrade is necessary to handle the anticipated surge of organic waste, said Hansen.

Officials hope to kick off the Durable Compost Bag program, in which customers would put food scraps into plastic bags and toss them into the garbage. At the plant — in the new Durable Compost Bags Addition — those bags would be sorted out, and the organic material used to make mulch.

The cost of that program and the expansion would cost an average of $10 per customer per year, said Hansen. The bags would be free, and participation voluntary.

Washington and Ramsey counties are asking the state Legislature to pay for half of the $43 million price tag. If approved, the project could break ground next spring.

The facility now handles all household garbage from Washington and Ramsey counties — 450,000 tons per year. About 350,000 tons are burned in incinerators to generate electricity, and 15,000 tons are recycled.

The rest is material that can’t be recycled, including mattresses and furniture. Most of that is taken to landfills.

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