The Ramsey/Washington County Resource Recovery Project (Project) has its roots in a landfill that polluted groundwater in the late 1970s. The two counties jointly managed this landfill. After the pollution was discovered, County Commissioners decided that there must be a better way to handle waste. The two counties put policies into place to establish recycling, yard waste, composting and household hazardous waste programs, and explored recovering energy from trash.
In 1987, the Counties entered into a 20-year agreement with Northern States Power Company, and later NRG Energy, Inc., to process waste into fuel (refuse-derived fuel or RDF). The purpose of the Project is to minimize the Counties' dependence on landfills by providing and burning RDF instead of coal at power plants at Red Wing and Mankato.
Since 1987, most of the waste generated in Ramsey and Washington Counties, over 7.1 million tons, has been delivered to the Resource Recovery Facility in Newport, Minnesota. Most of the waste is delivered by licensed waste haulers, but citizens also deliver waste to the facility.
As the 20-year agreement with NRG Energy, Inc. was drawing to a close, the Counties saw an opportunity to further explore a shift from heavy government involvement to a more market-based approach for the delivery of waste to the Newport facility from NRG Energy, Inc. Beginning in 2007 the Counties are working with Resource Recovery Technologies, Inc. (RRT), through a 6-year Processing Agreement. In the Agreement, RRT will secure waste by contracting with haulers, and will continue to make fuel out of trash.
Processing waste to recover materials and energy is one of many tools used to reduce risk to health and the environment. Ramsey and Washington Counties continue to look to the future to find ways to make sure that the ways we handle waste are safe and cost-effective.
Processing waste and recovering energy will continue in the metropolitan area, and new technologies are emerging to help that happen. For example, the Project has been working with others to explore using anaerobic digestion to convert food and organic waste into natural gas, which can produce energy and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, the Project will continue to work with businesses, community groups and governments to increase recycling, reduce toxicity of waste and to reduce the impact of waste on the environment.
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