As it experiments with organics recycling, Dakota County hopes a new state rule will promote an expansion of organics composting centers.
There are just two organics recycling centers serving the metro area right now. This one, Resource Recovery Technologies, is located in Dakota County’s Empire Township. Advocates hope that new rules will allow more facilities to process organics.
Local recycling of organics — food scraps and food waste paper — may get a boost from a state rule change coming next year from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
The new rule will make it simpler and less expensive to open new organics recycling centers.
In Dakota County, that could result in more local facilities accepting organics for composting, said Lori Frekot, environmental initiatives supervisor.
Currently, two organics compost facilities serve the entire metro area: RRT Processing Solutions LLC is located in Dakota County in Empire Township, and a Mdewakanton Sioux facility is located in Shakopee in Scott County.
Because of the rule change, the six yard-waste-only sites in Dakota County could choose to accept organics if they follow the new requirements, Frekot said.
“Having more facilities available helps make collecting and transporting more cost-effective because there is less distance between the generator and the facility,” she said.
The current rule holds organics recycling centers to the same standards as landfills.
“Right now they have to follow a lot more stringent rules that can make it very costly,” said Emily Barker, a specialist in the MPCA’s organics recycling division. “For small facilities, it can be much too expensive to follow the rule.”
A key change in the new rule is that organics composting facilities will have more options for the type of impermeable surface required over the ground, and more of the operations will be able to take place off that surface than under the current rule, Barker said.
The rule will be published by the MPCA in December, followed by a 30-day public comment period. If it is not contested, it would take effect three months later.
Hennepin County has taken the lead among metro counties in promoting household organics recycling. Most of the current curbside pickup of organics is occurring in Hennepin’s western suburbs.
Dakota County is unlikely to have curbside pickup of organics for households before 2016, unless garbage haulers offer it on their own, Frekot said.
Some county commissioners have expressed skepticism about making organics recycling a priority for the county.
At a recent briefing for the board, environmental specialist Steve Pincuspy said the argument for recycling food scraps and food waste paper is that they make up 30 percent of the garbage people throw away and they are filling up landfills when they could be turned into animal feed or composted into rich soil.
Putting food waste in landfills is wasteful when there are other uses for it that benefit the environment and the economy, Pincuspy said.
In Dakota County, the thinking is that organics recycling should pay for itself. “You shouldn’t rely on property taxpayers to subsidize correct behavior,” said Dakota County Administrator Brandt Richardson.
The county is lending technical support to an organics recycling project in Lakeville schools this year and will spend 2014 considering how to proceed with other programs, Frekot said. Selected programs would be proposed as part of the 2015 budget.