Great River Energy relies on municipal solid waste flow

Every day, waste from Hennepin, Sherburne and Anoka counties is delivered to Great River Energy’s Elk River Resource Processing Plant.
There, the waste is processed into fuel for a nearby power plant, Great River Energy’s Elk River Energy Recovery Station, which is a renewable waste-to-energy power plant that operates around the clock. Steel, aluminum and items that cannot be burned are removed and most often recycled.
Great River Energy has processed over 10 million tons of garbage at its Elk River processing plant in its 27 years of operation.
“This is a tremendous amount of material that is then used for beneficial purposes, while minimizing waste that goes to a landfill. It’s a ‘win-win’ for our members and the environment,” says Matt Herman, who manages the processing plant for Great River Energy.
In 1980, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Waste Management Act to improve solid waste management by separating and recovering energy and materials from solid waste and by reducing waste going to landfills.
Current state law provides regulatory support for the recovery of energy and materials from waste prior to landfilling. As such, metro area haulers are required to take trash to a facility such as the Elk River processing plant before taking it to a landfill. In recent years, however, the Elk River facility has been operating below capacity while metro area landfills continue to accept municipal solid waste.
In 2015, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency amended metro area landfill permits and established the regulatory structure necessary to implement this statute. Enforcement of Minnesota Statutes 473.848 would help ensure Great River Energy continues a project that provides a lots of benefits to the region.
Those benefits are significant. According to a study – “Great River Energy Elk River system … Creating a value stream for the region” by Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc., Fairfax, Va. – the Elk River operations contribute significantly to the economy by creating approximately 260 jobs in the three counties and 360 throughout Minnesota and by producing an economic output of over $50 million annually in the three counties, with an additional $10 million annually throughout other areas of the state.
Enforcement would also reduce the amount of trash in metro landfills. Currently, Great River Energy’s processing plant in Elk River ensures that about 320,000 tons of municipal solid waste and more than 25 million pounds of recyclable metal are not sent to landfills each year. — Therese LaCanne, manager, corporate communications, Great River Energy