Elk River has another ‘green’ year in 2012

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Recycling in Elk River has increased dramatically after the implementation of a new single stream recycling program late last year.

The switch was made Dec. 1.

“Just in a couple of months we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the amount of recyclables that we have,” City Administrator Cal Portner said in his annual report to the city earlier this month.

Although there were a few rough spots in implementing the new program, Elk River Environmental Administrator Rebecca Haug said she is very happy with the change and how well it has been received.

Single stream recycling allows paper, cardboard, aluminum, plastics, glass and other recyclables to be put together in the same recycling cart, rather than separating paper and cardboard from containers.

The new recycling carts.
The new recycling carts.

Residents were given new 64-gallon recycling carts to replace the old green recycling bins.

As part of the change, curbside collection of recycled materials has changed from weekly to every other week.

The city decided to switch to single stream recycling to increase recycling collection and participation by making the process easier for residents. Single stream collection is also considered safer and more efficient for the haulers than a dual-stream system.

Elk River, which is known as Energy City, saw activity in a number of other “green” areas in 2012 as well, according to the city’s annual report.

People took a tour of the landfill gas-to-electricity plant during an open house in October.
People took a tour of the landfill gas-to-electricity plant during an open house in October.

The Elk River Landfill gas-to-electricity project celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012. The facility collects the gas produced by decomposing garbage and converts it into electricity — producing enough to cover 9.5 percent of the energy needs in Elk River, according to Elk River Municipal Utilities (ERMU) General Manager Troy Adams. The project is a cooperative effort involving Sherburne County, ERMU, Waste Management and the city of Elk River. An expansion is under consideration.

The city received a grant from Sherburne County to purchase Big Belly solar garbage and recycling containers to encourage recycling in city parks in 2012. The containers are at the Youth Athletic Complex, Orono Park and ball fields and River’s Edge Commons Park. Besides encouraging people to recycle, the Big Belly uses solar power to compact the waste in the unit, and then sends a signal when it is full. That prevents unnecessary trips to pick up the trash, Portner said.

More efficient fluorescent lamps have been installed in the garage at City Hall, switching from T12 to T8. Motion sensors have also been added so the lights go on only when someone is present.

Lights in the police department garage have also been put on sensors. “That’s working very well and I expect a significant electricity savings,” Police Chief Brad Rolfe said.

Paper and soap dispensers at City Hall were upgraded by the vendor at no cost. “People are using a lot less soap and paper towels because now it’s touch free,” said Finance Director Tim Simon.

Energy-efficient light-emitting diode or LED lighting has been installed on the cooler doors at the city’s two liquor stores, Northbound and Westbound. That change is expected to save about $2,400 a year in electrical costs, according to Simon.

The city council and some staff members are now accessing city documents on iPads, saving time and paper.