Businesses eyeing their ‘waste line’

by Joni Astrup
Associate editor
Businesses looking to save money and conserve heard tips from several experts at a “Trim Your Waste Line” event.
It was presented Jan. 27 by the city of Elk River’s Energy City program and held at Great River Energy in Elk River.

Free service helps businesses conserve

One hospital reduced the number of cleaning chemicals it used from 63 to 12. Not only did it save on chemicals, but it trimmed seven minutes off the time it takes to clean one room.
Another company was able to save thousands of dollars on a sewer fee.
Both entities were helped by the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP), according to Sarah Haas, environmental and public health specialist with MnTAP.
MnTAP is a free service that helps businesses save money, conserve energy and reduce waste. It is located at the University of Minnesota.
One of the things MnTAP can do is on-site visits and one-on-one assessments. That’s followed up with a letter of recommendation.
MnTAP also can help  companies develop an internal team designed to investigate waste-related issues.
It also offers an intern program.
MnTAP coordinates a materials exchange program as well. Minnesota Materials Exchange is a free service that links organizations that have reusable goods they no longer need to those who can use them.
In one case, an educational institution donated 50 workstations to a non-profit group. In another, a textile covering business donated 25,000 zippers to a livestock company.
In both cases, the companies donating the goods saved disposal costs and the ones on the receiving end avoiding the cost of buying those materials.
Frequently listed items on the materials exchange include office furniture, three-ring binders, pallets, electronics and packing materials.
For more information, go to The site lists both items wanted and available items.
For more information about MnTAP, go to

Giant soda bottle containers give people a chance to recycle while traveling.

Giant soda bottles offer recycling spot
Recycling containers that look like giant pop bottles are out at businesses across the state, thanks to the Recycling Association of Minnesota.
The supersized bottles are located at more than 200 places in Minnesota, including gas stations, car washes and golf courses, according to Ellen Telander, director of the Recycling Association of Minnesota. The program is called “Message in a Bottle.”
In Elk River, the big pop bottle recycling containers are at Cornerstone Auto Resource and the Elk River Ice Arena.
“Recycling away from home is the last frontier for recycling,” Telander said. “When people are out and about, typically there isn’t anywhere to recycle.”
Now the giant pop bottles offer people that opportunity.
For more information about the Message in a Bottle campaign, go to

‘Less Waste Is Smart Business’ is motto

‘Less Waste Is Smart Business.’”
That’s the motto of Minnesota Waste Wise, which helps businesses conserve resources and save money in the process.
Kate Worley is  Minnesota Waste Wise program director.
Minnesota Waste Wise helps businesses in areas related to solid waste and recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation and land use and habitat.
One of the benefits is to try to help businesses improve their bottom lines. “That’s really what we look at is how we can help businesses save money, at the same time as helping the environment,” Worley said.
Minnesota Waste Wise is a nonprofit affiliated with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and member-supported. It was founded in 1994. For more information, go to
Energy Smart, which focuses on energy use and water consumption, is one of Minnesota Waste Wise’s programs. For more information on Energy Smart, go to
The Sustainable Business Resource Center is also under the wing of Minnesota Waste Wise. Its Web site is

Dream to reality: Recycling lights

A recycling idea that came to Ellen Telander in a dream has become a success story.
Telander, director of the Recycling Association of Minnesota, had a dream about recycling strings of Christmas lights.
She pitched the idea to her board, and the program was born. It’s called Recycle Your Holidays.
When it was first launched, Telander hoped to collect 50,000 pounds of lights. Instead, 100,000 pounds were collected — enough to fill three semis.
It is now an annual event.

ERMU has tips to conserve water

Angela Hauge, water operator with Elk River Municipal Utilities, outlined ways to save water and money.
The average Elk River resident uses about 73 gallons a day, which is more than twice as much as in the United Kingdom.
Irrigation — lawn watering — is the No. 1 use of water in Elk River.
To water wisely, she offered these tips:
•Inspect and adjust irrigation system schedule. Don’t over-water.
•Adjust sprinkler heads so water isn’t spraying at the house or sidewalk or into a pond or weeds.
•Water in short segments. For instance, water the front yard for five minutes, then the back yard for five minutes, then back to the front yard for five minutes and so forth, watering each zone for a total of 10-15 minutes. This method gives water time to soak in instead of run off.
•Only water when absolutely necessary.
Hauge also advocates the use of “smart” irrigation systems. They use weather updates from satellites to water more efficiently. “If it’s supposed to rain tonight, or if it rained last night, your system won’t come on,” she explained.
Rebates are available. For details, go to or call 763-441-2020.

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