A state mandate to get serious about recycling has more people in Ramsey County delivering their greasy pizza boxes and chicken bones to organic drop-off sites, with the number doubling in the past couple years to more than 50,000 visits.
Now it’s leading to a push to get the one hold-out in the county — Arden Hills — to finally climb onboard.
Problem is, the Arden Hills organic drop-off is in a regional park. And that has neighbors, many of whom were outraged the last time the county tried this, coming forward again to howl their disapproval.
“I don’t buy there’s not going to be odors from this stuff,” said Loren Lemke, a resident for more than 60 years. “When I went out today to put out the garbage and lifted the lid, holy smokes that stunk! … When it gets hot, it stinks like heck.”
Arden Hills Planning Commission members voted unanimously this week to recommend the use of parkland for dropping off food scraps. Now the issue goes to the City Council, which may decide what to do later this month.
Planning Commission Chairwoman Roberta Thompson stressed that she is herself passionate about encouraging re-use of waste items.
“I have my own compost bin and no issues with critters or smells,” she said. “I don’t even have a garbage disposal, that’s how dedicated I am.”
Resident fears include not only stinky bins but random drop-offs at closed gates that might attract wildlife, already an annoyance to many in the area.
The use of parkland for drop-off also bothers many people, Arden Hills planner Matthew Bachler told Planning Commission members, but “the site is a significant distance from recreational amenities in the park” as well as hundreds of feet from the nearest home.
Ramsey County officials deny that folks in the vicinity will experience any ill effects.
John Springman of St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health told commissioners that he stopped by two existing organics sites and in one case had to lean over into the big bin to pick up a scent.
“And this was a hot day,” he said. “Outside of 3 to 5 feet at worst, it’s not a problem.”
En route to a state mandate to recycle 75 percent of a county’s waste by 2030, Ramsey County took steps three years ago to start ramping up recycling of discarded food and other organic waste.
The county also moved to expand several yard waste drop-off sites to include organic waste in hopes of gradually moving toward curbside pickups.
One inducement: Adding organic waste means year-round instead of seasonal operations, so things like Christmas trees can be brought to sites formerly closed during the winter months.
Six yard waste sites in the county have accepted food scraps for three years now, Bachler told commissioners. Given what the county asserts is a strong record of avoiding all the issues that Arden Hills residents fear, city staffers are recommending the north metro suburb climb aboard.
Nonetheless the city has heard from several people opposed to the idea, which is based partly on the principle of adding yet another piece to the use of natural open space for dumping — if only in a lidded bin watched over by the staff.
“Let’s keep our parks as pristine as we can for the future generations to enjoy, as we do now!” wrote Jerry Laumeyer, who lives nearby.