Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Natascha Watercott
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Canister transfer station possible


Jana Mundell

A potential one-year waste disposal pilot project to help alleviate some recycling and solid waste issues is proposed for Willow River.

At the February 6 Willow River City Council meeting, Caleb Anderson, Pine County land and resource manager, discussed a potential one-year waste disposal pilot project with the council to help alleviate some of the recycling and solid waste issues in Pine County. Anderson stated he was mainly asking the city for preliminary feedback as part of his research to determine if the project is a viable option. The project has not been approved but will be brought to the board of commissioners at the Pine County board meeting on March 7.

Anderson began by explaining some of the problems the county has been having with the recycling sheds. "The volume of recycling has increased such that it's getting difficult to service them in these small sheds," he said. "The volume of trash that's been coming into them has been a real problem." He noted the Pine County Solid Waste department has been receiving a lot of calls about the state of the sheds as well as reports of people burning garbage.

Anderson also stated that nearly half of Pine County households don't have trash pickup. "We have data from all of the trash haulers in the county that suggests that about 50 percent of the households in Pine County have trash pickup at their home. The only other outlet if you don't have trash service is to go to the Hinckley Transfer Station, which is about 26 miles from here," explained Anderson. He added that the transfer station doesn't typically see a lot of self-hauls of trash, meaning that there's likely a lot of trash that is being burned, buried, illegally disposed of and brought to recycling sheds.

According to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency fact sheet, burning household garbage can be hazardous both to your health and the environment by contaminating the air, water and soil. Household trash often contains plastics that have been treated with toxic chemicals, coatings and inks which are released into the air when burned. The ash from the burned material, which also contains concentrated amounts of these chemicals, can seep into soil and groundwater.

One of the solutions the Pine County Solid Waste department is considering for the pilot project is the use of a canister transfer station in which garbage is collected in roll-offs (essentially large dumpsters) as opposed to a larger, more expensive building like the Hinckley Transfer Station. As a pilot project, the initial investment would be minimal in order to determine if people are using it. He noted that Willow River's central location, about 26 miles from the Hinckley Transfer Station and about 30 miles from Carlton County, is one of the main reasons why they are investigating the city as a potential location for the project, if the community would be interested in it.

Ideally, Anderson said that the plan would be to have the canister transfer station open two to three days per week; it would be a staffed location with an attendant there to take trash and help people determine what can be recycled. "Some of the feedback we receive is that a lot of people want to recycle and there's just a lack of information about how to do it right," said Anderson. Via phone interview, Anderson explained that many people are unclear about what types of plastic they can recycle; items like plastic kids' toys especially, which they do not recycle, often end up at the sheds.

The cost to dispose of the trash would be volume based and would fund having an attendant there. Recycling would continue to be free. "The goal is to take as much true trash and get it to the landfill so it's not being buried at home or burned," said Anderson.

Some residents attending the meeting expressed concern that if the reason so many households don't have trash pickup is due to the cost, having to pay for waste disposal at the canister transfer station may not have much of an impact.

Anderson agreed there may be people who would still dispose of their garbage illegally, but noted the volume-based fee could be cheaper than regular garbage pick-up, and having free recycling would further reduce the amount of trash. Via phone interview, Anderson also explained that not having garbage pick-up may have a cultural element as well; if people see their neighbors don't have it, it becomes more acceptable.

Jana Mundell

Pine County is seeking to pilot a program in Willow River to reduce garbage in the recycling sheds and increase recycling.

Based on feedback, Anderson said that they have found that many people don't like using the recycling sheds because of their cluttered condition. People spend time sorting their materials only to find the sheds completely disorganized when they get there. Making the experience of bringing in recycling more clean and efficient might entice more people to use the service.

Other residents at the meeting noted that having the canister transfer station could be a good way to bring more business and people to the community.

Councilor Chris Ketchmark told Anderson that the council is receptive to the idea, pending a proposal (as well as approval of the project by the Pine County board) and the support of Willow River's residents. "I can see points on either end of the thing, because we have to do something about the garbage. I know people at PHASE who can't believe the stuff that's put in there. Some of it's disgusting and they shouldn't have to deal with that," said Ketchmark.

For more information about where to bring waste materials and which materials can be recycled, go to, Departments, and click on Solid Waste and Recycling.


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