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Last year, the state launched an initiative encouraging Minnesotans to ramp up recycling of plastic bottles. But the program, which included a giant display of bottles at the State Fair, has yet to prove successful.
Some are skeptical
Others just aren’t convinced any state effort will work to ramp up recycling. “It’s gotten worse. It’s just too easy to throw cans in the garbage,” said Ron Pooley, the former owner and current supervisor of nonferrous metals at Mankato Iron & Metal.
Minnesota’s recycling rate for cans “was almost 60 percent 10 years ago,” he said. “Part of the decline is that the price of aluminum has been super depressed over the last four years. Now we pay [consumers] about 53 cents a pound. Four years ago, it was 70, maybe 80 cents a pound. That [drop] discourages people.”
But it’s not discouraging him. The family-owned Mankato Iron & Metal regularly takes bags and truckloads of old cans from the public and scrap dealers. It shreds cans and blows the shards into giant trailers. Every seven to 11 days, a 45,500-pound load of shredded beer, Coke and Pepsi cans hits the road for out-of-state smelters. Those shards eventually become pristine rolls of aluminum sheeting.
The rolls rush back to Minnesota, often to the Rexam canning plant in St. Paul, or to Crown Cork & Seal facilities that pump out aluminum lids for soda cans in Mankato and aerosol can bottoms in Faribault. All factory scrap gets recycled.
Matt Meenan, spokesman for the Aluminum Association, said he hopes Minnesota’s campaign will broaden that cycle.
“I think it’s great that the state is doing this,” he said. “It’s cool.”
If fairgoers respond to the state’s new outreach, their efforts could help meet the revised goal of recycling 75 percent of all the cans in the country by 2015.
Dee DePass • 612-673-7725