School steps up recycling effort

FAIRMONT – Today’s students have been sorting plastic, paper and metal for their entire lives for recycling pickup at home.

The concept of throwing away an empty water bottle seems strange to them, and many are confused if confronted with only a garbage can.

And yet Fairmont Area students have not had the proper receptacles to dispose of recyclables. That is about to change.

A series of complaints about the issue has been circulating in the community for some time. One complaint reached the desk of Billeye Rabbe, solid waste coordinator for Faribault and Martin Counties.

She reminded the school district of the state law requiring public entities to collect and manage solid waste, including having containers for at least three recyclable materials.

In addition to recycling cans from its food service department; cardboard and paper; and computer components, the district reported it fulfills the recycling component by sending garbage to the Prairieland facility in Truman. Prairieland salvages some materials as fuel for boilers at Xcel Energy.

According to Rabbe, hauling garbage to Prairieland does not count as recycling – technically, it is incineration – but she acknowledges the district is likely meeting the minimum requirements for recycling set by state law.

Still, the district decided to do more.

“Per Billeye’s request to make the school’s recycling program more visible, the school is planning on adding recycling receptacles for aluminum cans and plastic bottles in various locations in the buildings … and outdoors,” said director of buildings and grounds Dave Ternberg. “The school will also be providing recycling receptacles in every classroom; the receptacles will be designated for recycling copy paper.”

All those containers aren’t free, however.

The operations committee of the school board recently approved increasing the capital fund budget by $15,000 to buy the containers.

“I am in the final planning stages for making the recycling improvements, and I am putting together an order for the receptacles,” Ternberg said. “It will probably be 8 to 10 weeks before the improvement plan is implemented.”