Published June 12, 2022

Upside Down Under: Recycling stable but stagnant?…

Written by
Marvin Baker
| The Dakotan
In the opinion of Marvin Baker
Marvin Baker
In the opinion of Marvin Baker
Marvin Baker

Most of us, if not all of us in North Dakota, have recycled something. The first thing that comes to mind is aluminum cans, but there are numerous other items that can be and are recycled.

North Dakota and the United States are a long way from the motivation to recycle in Europe, but that attitude is gaining some ground, slowly but surely.

The city of Fargo has had a robust recycling program for more than 32 years that I’m aware of. And since 1990, numerous other programs have popped up across the state that have lessened the burden on community landfills.

As it stands today, there are 28 communities in North Dakota that have recycling drop-off points. Sixteen communities have curbside pick up and what’s interesting about that is it’s not always the bigger cities doing this.

In fact, Minto (population 776), Pembina (population 448), St. Thomas (population 340), and Gilby (population 313) are among those communities that have curbside recycling pick up.

The drop off points are not always so well defined. Sometimes it’s nothing more than an enclosed trailer with a door to put recyclables into. In other spots it’s more sophisticated. Some places actually have buildings such as the city of Fargo, North Dakota Recycling Services in Williston, Recycle North Dakota in Jamestown, 4 R’s Recycling in Carrington, the city of Kenmare and the city of Harvey.

The beauty of all this is that every small community in North Dakota has vacant buildings and locals often wonder what to do with those buildings. Opening a recycle center would be a win-win option. Recycle North Dakota took the old Coca Cola Bottling Co., building in Jamestown and turned it into a modern recycle center.

Recycling is becoming more popular although not more profitable at this time. It’s like any other commodity, prices rise and fall. But despite it’s popularity, it’s sometimes confusing as some recyclers will accept items that others do not.

For instance, the city of Fargo accepts newspaper, paper, junk mail, magazines, glass, bottles, steel, and aluminum cans, plastics No. 1 through 7, paperboard and cardboard. The city of West Fargo has added a similar program and recycling is popular enough in Fargo that a private company is accepting recyclables.

Recycle North Dakota takes phone books, catalogs, paper egg cartons, glass, but only if it’s taken to the site and electronics for a fee. There are some that are very specific such as batteries, motor oil, or medical waste.

In Minot it’s Earth Recycling that takes care of the commercial part of the city. Not so long ago, Kalix and Earth Recycling accepted items. But as some of us know, Earth Recycling had a major fire and has since moved it’s operation to Glenburn and Kalix has limited itself to confidential shredded paper. It leaves private individuals in a bit of a lurch.

Any city engineer will tell you that recycling is appreciated simply because landfills will last so much longer when recyclables are put in their proper place.

According to the state of North Dakota, 20 percent of the solid waste can be recycled and that statistic rises to 30 percent among the eight largest cities. In addition, 80 percent of office waste is paper that can be recy-cled.

So if you work at an insurance company, a grain elevator, a car dealership, or a grocery store, think about that the next time you take out the trash.

It is said that every North Dakotan generates 4.8 pounds of garbage a day and at least 20 percent of that is recyclable.

Now imagine for a moment walking into any business establishment in Europe; an airport, a restaurant, a hotel, a shopping center, an Army barracks; separate receptacles are set up to accept recyclables. One is for paper, one is for bottles, one is for aluminum, and one is for regular trash.

North Dakota will eventually get there. Some places are already doing it. We just need to have more of an incentive to recycle. Yes, we’re saving our landfills, but money is a motivator so if those commodity prices would increase, more people would get on board.

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