Tri-County Solid Waste Recycling Photo - St. Peter, Nicollet County, Le Sueur County

(Herald file photo)

Hello, recycling fans, I hope you are staying safe and healthy during this COVID-19 period. How long it will last is anyone’s guess, but recycling is here to stay.

Work from home/stay at home/school from home orders created very interesting and challenging dynamics in the solid waste and recycling industry. The effects on the stock markets and recycling commodity markets were easy to see, as the supply and demand markets play out and it is interesting what is happening at the curb and our local recycling sites.

First, there was the hand sanitizer and toilet paper shortages; then came the rush of buying everything we needed at home to keep ourselves sane and our kids busy, which created shortages in bikes, swimming pools, grills, freezers, weightlifting/exercise equipment, and of course, trampolines. Our local recycling containers had runneth over and over again and again. Every week seemed like Christmas had come with so many large cardboard boxes and bulky Styrofoam. During my inspections, I could also tell folks were doing more home repairs, additions or remodeling projects.

All of this activity created tidal waves of materials, both good and bad. Cardboard was/is in high demand, along with recycled paper — could it be from Amazon shopping?

Overall, recycling markets have taken a hit in many ways, with increased contamination of materials thrown in the recycling containers and rollbacks in recycling policies. Early on, in March and April, there was no place to take anything. Everybody was at home cleaning house and most places were closed; the Salvation Army, local clothes drop boxes, even our local transfer station had stopped taking residential customers for a while, which created large amounts of this stuff (illegal contamination) being put in recycling containers, which creates more problems down the line. Thankfully, all of them have now reopened and folks can dispose of their items properly.

Other recycling friendly programs have also taken a step backward with the elimination or delay of single use plastic bag bans in some Cities and States. The elimination of bringing reusable bags to the grocery store is also a step backwards. Changes in how restaurants operate by switching to takeout orders have also increased the single use plastic bag and Styrofoam containers.

Well do not despair or delay, there is lots we can do, as long as we stay informed and take time to recycle correctly.

First, get back to the basics: recycle Nos. 1, 2 and 5 plastics; most food and beverage containers (metal or plastic) can be recycled. Cardboard and paper are needed, but remember to break the big boxes down. Glass has also seen an increase demand, so remember to recycle your glass food and beverage containers as well.

No paper shredding or Styrofoam is accepted. If you are still cleaning house or remodeling, your old carpet, patio furniture, grills, old kitchen cabinets, old toys or clothes do not go in the recycling. Please cut them down to size and put in your garbage container or take to a landfill or transfer station.

Contact us at Tri-County, via 507-381-9196, online at or on Facebook with your disposal questions. Stay healthy, stay positive, stay informed, and we will get through this together.

Al Christensen is the Tri-County Solid Waste director, serving Nicollet, Le Sueur and Sibley counties. Reach him at

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