Household organics recycling is coming to Ramsey and Washington counties — along with a potential increase in monthly bills.
Officials said Monday that the increase could lay the groundwork for a program to transform garbage into natural gas.
Michael Reed, who co-manages the Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy Center for Ramsey County, said the amount the facility charges waste haulers will increase 4 percent next year. In 2023, those fees will jump an additional 14 percent.
That increase will pay for the new household organics recycling program, which will remove food scraps from garbage and turn them into compost.
Reed didn’t know how much the average garbage bill would increase. The Energy Center estimates that the fees to waste haulers would be the equivalent of $1 per customer per month, but haulers are free to raise or lower their fees independently.
Starting in late 2022, residents will be asked to remove any organic waste — which is material from plants or animals — and put it into compostable plastic bags.
They will then toss the bags into their garbage bins. Those bags will be removed at the Energy Center’s plant in Newport and processed into compost.
On Monday, Reed pointed out another benefit of the recycling program — potentially producing natural gas from garbage.
He said that once the system has been set up to bag the organics, they could be removed and then processed into natural gas, in addition to compost.
Reed said the technology to do that has been thoroughly tested.
“This is the same technology farmers have been using for decades,” he said.
Most likely the Energy Center would subcontract that task to private businesses.
“We are looking for private-sector partners,” he said. “We are looking for markets for refuse-derived fuel.”
Such an arrangement is many years away, he said. But Reed said the plans show a commitment to squeezing every last bit of benefit out of the garbage the two counties produce.
“We are trying to find the highest value for waste resources coming our way,” he said.
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