Meeting a Visionary Recycling Goal

When it comes to recycling, the people of Minnesota are as committed as anyone. The state’s goal to recycle 75 percent of its solid waste by 2030 is one step closer to reality in McLeod County, thanks to a capacity-boosting retrofit of the county’s materials recovery facility. With this new facility, McLeod County can practice what it preaches. 

Background

For more than three years, Burns & McDonnell has helped McLeod County, Minnesota, with integrated solid waste management planning. The materials recovery facility (MRF) in Hutchinson was in need of some major upgrades to better serve the community and increase its effectiveness. 

“McLeod County is a relatively rural county, and for it to invest in a project of this size is somewhat unusual,” says Robert Craggs, project manager in the firm’s Environmental Group. “But the reason the county decided to go forward with this project was because of its continued commitment to recycling and improving service to its customers.” 

Challenge 

For most of its history, McLeod County’s recycling program asked a lot from its county residents and businesses. Users were required to separate recyclable materials at home into five categories: glass, paper, tin/aluminum, plastic and corrugated cardboard. The team was tasked with turning this multisort system into an automated, single-stream recycling system that would allow customers to commingle recyclable materials in one container. 

Operated by the county’s Solid Waste Management Department, the MRF would be an important element in the county’s plan to meet the state’s statutory goal of recycling 75 percent of solid waste, by weight, by 2030.

Solution

The team developed design-build plans and specifications for the retrofit. That included assessing existing recycling equipment and site and facility conditions, then determining the most cost-effective ways to achieve the county’s goals to increase recycling, support waste reduction activities and improve customer convenience.

The retrofit design quadrupled the MRF’s recycling processing capacity, taking it from about 5,000 tons per year to 20,000 tons of materials annually. The project also allowed the center to double the number of employees hired through the Adult Training & Habilitation Center, which offers vocational opportunities to people with disabilities. The design-build project saved the county’s facility about $1 million by reusing portions of the facility’s existing recycling equipment and other infrastructure. 

New elements include a 4,200-square-foot tipping building and a vehicle scale, in addition to single-stream recycling equipment. Along with developing the civil, electrical and mechanical design for the tipping building and collaborating with the recycling equipment vendor on the single-stream configuration, the team designed civil site needs for the facility expansion. 

What makes this particular project unique is that it was a design-build project for a local government in the recycling arena as opposed to traditional design-bid-build. We were hired to design and build the facility, and we did that in an unprecedented time frame of less than nine months.

— Robert Craggs

Outcome

Recycling in McLeod County has gotten a lot easier — and participation is growing — thanks to the $4.5 million project. 

Within months of the new single-stream recycling system’s completion, volume at the MRF increased by more than 25 percent. With its greatly increased capacity, the MRF — previously serving only McLeod County residents, municipalities and commercial businesses — is expanding its service to a multicounty region. 

“It gives me satisfaction to be able to assist the county in completing this recycling facility upgrade while it continues to employ staff with disabilities so these particular individuals are provided job opportunities,” Craggs says. “I got involved more than 25 years ago in environmental consulting because I believe in the need to preserve our natural resources for future generations. The end result here is that we have more materials being recycled, a reduction in greenhouse gases and more efficient resource management.” 

Specialized Services

  • Solid waste management planning
  • Materials recovery facility retrofit
  • New single-stream system
  • Recycling program planning
  • Feasibility studies
  • Market analysis
  • Design-build project delivery
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Bob Craggs Solid Waste and Resource Recovery Manager 952-656-3617
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