The Waterville Township recycling center is opening up to new consumers.
In a move to increase recycling in rural Le Sueur County, commissioners voted Tuesday, Nov. 26 to strike a deal with the township. In exchange for the county continuing to fund the township’s recycling facility, the township will expand eligibility across the county, including residents in the city of Waterville, who previously could not use the center despite its location inside the city. Before, it was only for use of Waterville Township residents.
“It’s just so more people can use it,” said Tri-County Solid Waste Director Al Christensen of the change. Christensen had been tasked by the county to attend a Waterville Township meeting and see if local leaders were open to a deal. “The county wants to target locations that are accessible to rural residents. All of our cities have an organized collection system. But this way, rural residents will have more opportunities to recycle.”
While the Waterville Township’s recycling services will be made available to residents across the county, residents won’t be able to switch out of their current organized collection system, if they have one. They will only be able to drop off their overflow recycling at the center. Users will be asked to show identification at the center, in order to prove residence in the county. The center is reserved for residents only, not businesses.
“If you have say, a family of four that goes through a lot of milk jugs and has a lot of recycling or a family that orders a lot from Amazon and has a lot of cardboard to get rid of, this might help them,” Christensen said, talking about the benefits for those living in cities, like Waterville, that already have a collection system.
But the people who will likely receive the most benefit from this move are residents in surrounding Le Sueur County townships, like Elysian, Kilkenny and Cordova. Previously, there weren’t many opportunities for members of those communities to recycle, with the areas lacking any kind of commercial pickup service. Opening up Waterville Township’s center to everyone in the county gives residents in those areas a nearby place to drop off their recyclables.
“We want to make it more accessible,” said Christensen. “An issue for county boards is how you distribute programs and services in an equitable manner. Some counties build their own facilities and do things at a higher level, but this is the way we choose to do it (with separate services and centers across the county, varying by community). In Le Sueur County, everyone pays the solid waste tax and it goes in to a pot of money that supports various programs and services. From there, the county must decide how to best use those resources in an equitable manner.”
After meeting with Waterville Township, Christensen came back to the county recommending that it move ahead with the deal. In his opinion, not only is the recycling center a good place for surrounding areas to drop off their recycling, it could serve as a role model for other reuse and recycling services in the county due to its well maintained infrastructure, including fences and cameras and a reuse store.
“What I really like about it is Fritz kind of runs a reuse store for free,” Christensen said. “Certainly, the state is preaching this a lot to us counties is they’re driving home recycling, recycling, recycling. Part of the problem is a lot of the cities have hit that plateau around that 50% and so then they preach again to you that you compost your organics more. It’s really hard for us outstate counties to get the scale of economies to do that, so one thing that they’re seeing as an alternative is we should probably implement reuse centers.”
The agreement between the county and Waterville Township is a unique one that hasn’t been made with other county recycling centers.
“It’s a great partnership between the township and the county when it comes to recycling,” said Le Sueur County Administrator Darrell Pettis. “It’s going really well for us. It’s a little bit of a change, but it worked out pretty well for the county.”
There is one other public place that all county residents can currently drop off their recyclables: the Waste Management facility south of Le Sueur. Another location is expected to become available in Le Center at the County Highway Department Shop. There, four recycling dumpsters will be available to county residents.