Helmut Schmidt, Published April 22 2010
A present for the planet
Since citywide curbside recycling started in September, Fargo’s recycling participation rate has jumped to 70 percent.
Meanwhile, overall material recycled has climbed into the 30 to 35 percent range, said Terry Ludlum, the solid waste utility manager.
“If we’re in that 35 percent range, we think that’s fantastic,” Ludlum said.
Both Fargo and Moorhead are exploring alternative and sustainable energy options, officials said, employing wind turbines, solar arrays and tapping landfill methane to produce electricity and heat buildings.
Fargo also switched to volume-based trash collection, which encourages residents to recycle by charging based on the amount of trash generated.
Fargoans recycled 362.76 tons of material in February, up from 279.35 tons in February 2009 – a 30 percent rise, records show.
Plastic recycling is up 65 percent, metal (cans) 49 percent, aluminum cans 43.6 percent, cardboard 41.6 percent, glass 37.9 percent and newsprint, 12 percent.
Fargo also recycles 9,000 tons of yard waste and 6,500 tons of wood waste a year.
The city wants to expand its recycling to include a broader range of plastics, boxboard, shrink wrap and junk mail, said city recycling supervisor Brady Brunsvold.
Moorhead has been curbside recycling since 1991, said Rose Sebelius, an office assistant in the Public Works Department.
The residential recycling rates have remained fairly stable in the last few years, records show.
In 2007, 626 tons of recyclables were collected, while 701 tons were collected in 2008 and 645 tons in 2009.
Between 2007 and 2009, yard waste collections rose from 2,089 tons to 3,056 tons, records show.
“I’m thinking it’s a habit. People are just so acclimated to it,” Sebelius said.
Overall in 2009, 28 percent of recyclable materials that once went to the landfill were kept out of the waste stream. But, that dips to 12.8 percent if construction demolition and composted materials are removed from the totals.
Records show recycling in West Fargo has inched up, while total waste sent to the landfill has dipped.
In 2007, West Fargo sent 17,258 tons of solid waste to Fargo’s landfill. In 2009, that had dipped to 16,876 tons.
In 2007, 1,140 tons of material was composted, and 28 tons of glass and 11.4 tons of tin and aluminum were recycled.
In 2009, 1,784 tons of material was composted, with 49 tons of glass and 14 tons of tin of aluminum recycled, records show.
Public Works Director Barry Johnson said there’s less waste in Dumpsters, packaging is smaller and “people are just becoming more conscious of what they’re doing.”
In another sort of recycling, Fargo has collected a lot of green from landfill methane.
The city is halfway through a 20-year commitment to sell part of the gas it collects to Cargill, which pays $125,000 annually.
The remainder of the gas powers an electric generator. That electricity is sold to Cass County Electric for about $300,000 a year, with the exhaust waste heat used to heat the landfill transfer station, saving $75,000 annually.
Until recently, Fargo sold carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange for its methane gas efforts, collecting $700,000 in one sale. The market has softened, but the city is still collecting credits for when they become salable again.
The city also has a 10-kilowatt wind turbine at the landfill and a solar panel array that generates 5 kilowatts of water.
All of Fargo’s city diesel fleet, buses and heavy equipment use biodiesel in warm weather, City Commissioner Mike Williams said. The city is also integrating hybrid cars and buses into the fleet, he said.
Moorhead Public Service runs two 750 kilowatt wind turbines on the north side of town that will be paid off this year, said General Manager Bill Schwandt. They supply power to about 600 homes and businesses.
Moorhead is now is looking at other projects, such as small wind turbines or solar arrays, Schwandt said.
Schwandt said Missouri River Energy Services, which supplies half of the city’s power, is investing in wind energy and is looking at biomass fuels. Like other power suppliers in Minnesota, it, must get 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.
The Western Area Power Administration supplies the other half of Moorhead’s energy. That energy comes from hydroelectric plants, Schwandt said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583