Fall cleaning season is usually a busy time for all of us, but during this COVID-19 era, recycling, solid waste and local thrift stores have seen a big increase of materials brought in by local residents.

This is just speculation, but I think it might stem from the crash of 2008 when our government chipped in $3 trillion stimulus to help our economy out of the hole we fell in to. By 2010, we started to climb out of that hole and our economy took off for a good 10-year run of consumption and what not. Now, during our COVID time, out or sheltering in place, all of us have taken some time to get rid of our “what not” and consumables.

Our tire, appliance, electronics, mattress, box springs saw a very huge turnout, with long lines and everything bursting by the end of the day. We had roughly 480 participants from St. Peter and the surrounding area. I do not have the final totals yet, but our local participants had recycled over six and a half semis of appliances and electronics.

We still get in some of the old wooden TV consoles but it looks like we are at the tail end of those tv’s as we are getting lots of flat screens in already. It’s the leaded glass in the TVs that make it so expensive to recycle and the real bottle neck is the few remaining lead smelters in the United States where they process the lead. Of course, the copper in the electronics get recycled and you can see the price of copper has gone up because of the new emerging electric vehicle (ev) markets so I guess you could say your old electronics copper is now riding around in a new Tesla somewhere. We also had about 40 tons of tires recycled that day, this is a pretty good number considering the farmers are still in the fields and could not get all their old tires in.

Our hazardous waste collections also saw a huge turnout with 452 participants. The weather gods were kind to us so it was a good day to get our basements, garages and households cleaned up and safe for the winter. With October being fire prevention month it was a great time to bring awareness of the dangers of rechargeable and lithium batteries. If the electrodes come into contact and are short-circuited, they can begin the process of a thermal run away, start a fire or explode. Therefore, it is important to get these types of batteries properly disposed of. The regular alkaline batteries can be thrown in the garbage. Other items collected were latex paint, which is also recycled or turned into klinker or a cement product. We collected about 13 gaylord boxes of latex paint alone. We also collected oil paint, which is also recycled at a refinery and blended, into a number 2-type fuel. About 5 pounds of Mercury was also collected and is recycled as it is very expensive to certain industries. Other types of materials collected were farm and garden chemicals (about 2,500 pounds worth) used oil and antifreeze, lots of muriatic acid (used to clean cement) also came in.

We also had a paper-shredding event, which was free to the public and was sponsored by one of our local banks. Residents learned that shredding does not go in to our regular recycling carts as it contaminates the rest of our recyclable materials and shredding must be kept separate or thrown into the garbage. The shredding collected that day was recycled into separate bails.

Our collections continue to evolve, it is our hope and goal to provide collection points in our three County area that are available more year round as it is hard to make these collection events and there can be long lines. If you missed our end of the year collections please call us at Tri-County at 507-381-9196 or go to our web site, tricountyrecycling.org and Nicollet County has a great waste wizard website where folks can learn where to recycle/dispose of certain items. Remember to keep recycling even in the winter months.

Al Christensen is the Tri-County Solid Waste director, serving Nicollet, Le Sueur and Sibley counties. Reach him at al.christensen@co.nicollet.mn.us.

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