County Working to Identify Recycling Budget Issues

Karen Newman

Kirk Rosenberg, Clay County Solid Waste Manager, and Shannon Thompson, Clay County Resource Recovery Technician, met with the Clay County Commission at their February 18 session to present information and request approval to communicate with county communities regarding solid waste recycling reimbursement rates from the county.

The solid waste management professionals expressed concern about the county’s current recycling reimbursement rates to Clay County communities for solid waste recycling which met reimbursement criteria.  In the past, the county paid the difference if the recycling costs for communities surpassed the budget.  Rosenberg explained that the market for recycled materials is currently soft, resulting in less income for the county.   Because more people are recycling and single-sort recycling is expensive due to specialized machinery, the county can no longer assume responsibility for community recycling cost over-runs. Single stream recycling does not require the sorting and separation of materials sent to be recycled. Single stream sorting differs from the multiple stream method where recyclables are sorted into different bins by homeowners. 

Thompson said, “The department has worked to identify recycling budget issues and we have worked on solutions.” Commissioner Campbell indicated that he is part of the Clay County committee working to review solid waste recycling reimbursements.

Rosenberg and Thompson recommended that Clay County communities be contacted by an official letter capping recycling reimbursements at the amount each city was reimbursed in 2019.  Commissioner Campbell added, “We don’t want to force the communities to pay more for solid waste recycling than they have in the past but we want to let them know that there is now a cap on reimbursements now for solid waste recycling which meets the reimbursement criteria.”  He explained that if state reimbursements to the counties for solid waste recycling increase, the local reimbursement rates to cities will change to reflect that.

Rosenberg explained that all Minnesota counties want to send a united message to the legislature as they request more state funding from the Minnesota Select Committee on Recycling and Environment (SCORE). The state collects about $80 million from the Solid Waste Management Tax. At this time, the state returns only about $17 million of the tax dollars to the counties. The counties, in turn, redistribute those funds to cities.  The county officials would like the Minnesota legislature to raise the amount returned to the counties for solid waste recycling to $30 million. Clay County officials will be traveling to St. Paul soon to speak with legislators and attend meetings concerning solid waste budgeting.

Commissioner Campbell moved to send a letter to Clay County communities capping 2020 solid waste recycling reimbursement rates at the 2019 level. Commissioner Weyland seconded the motion and the commission approved it unanimously.

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