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Traffic increasing in Kenmare Recycle Center

Cliff Emmel thinks about all the old timers when he’s working with recycling materials. And the way he sees it, recycling has been around a lot longer than 40 years.

2/03/15 (Tue)

Warehouse full of cardboard... Cliff Emmel stacks 1,000-pound cardboard bales in the Kenmare Recycle Center. Emmel ships approximately 240,000 pounds of baled cardboard annually to the Kalix Recycle Center in Minot for further processing, along with newsprint, magazines, junk mail and other recyclable items.

Editor’s note:  What began as an experiment some 40 years ago, has become an important alternative to placing garbage into the waste stream. Numerous materials that we discard every day are found to be recyclable. In the first of a three-part series about recycling, The Kenmare News gets a unique perspective of the city of Kenmare, which operates a recycling center downtown, as well as the perspective of a local business that has been recycling for a decade.

By Marvin Baker

Cliff Emmel thinks about all the old timers when he’s working with recycling materials. And the way he sees it, recycling has been around a lot longer than 40 years.

As most of us know, and Emmel is quick to remind us, that during the Great Depression of the 1930s and into the World War II years of the 1940s, just about anything that could be salvaged was reused.

Today the scenario is much different, but the concept remains the same. Recycle and reuse. Most of the items today are broken down and manufactured into new materials

Emmel, who works for the city of Kenmare, is the lone employee in the local recycle center. He’s there every Thursday morning and when he opens the building, there’s usually a steady stream of people bringing items in to be recycled including cardboard, newsprint, magazines, junk mail and tin cans.

He takes aluminum as well, but as a favor for Kenmare youth organizations that later sell the aluminum.

Cardboard is the most recycled material, according to Emmel and his last load of 60,000 pounds left town in December. He’s got a load ready for Skar Trucking to ship this month and will most likely see another full load sometime in May.

The cardboard is coming from a variety of places in the Kenmare area and as far as Emmel is concerned, it’s keeping the local landfill from becoming overburdened with a product that can and should be recycled.

Gooseneck Implement, Gartner’s Jack & Jill, Kenmare Super Valu, the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge, Kenmare Drug, Northern Appliances, Kenmare Floral, Kenmare Community Hospital and a host of individuals are all recycling on a regular basis.

Emmel said he noticed a recent spike when the businesses on the West Side Square downtown were being completed.

Nate Condit, a spokesman for Gooseneck Implement, said the John Deere dealership generates a lot of cardboard and recycling is the right thing to do.

“It’s there to use,” Condit said of the downtown building. “We should take advantage of having a recycling center in town.”

Gooseneck employees have been taking their cardboard downtown for at least 10 years, according to Condit, but the recycling effort isn’t limited to cardboard.

“We also recycle used oil and antifreeze, crushed oil filters, scrap iron, pallets and the crates our lawn mowers come in,” Condit said. “It’s a great way to get rid of certain items that the landfill doesn’t take or need to take. Sometimes there is money to be made to cover the cost or at least part of the cost.”

Todd Behm of Minot picks up used oil, antifreeze and crushed oil filters, Gerdeau of Minot gets the scrap metal, used batteries go to a special facility in Fargo and the pallets are shipped back to John Deere for reuse.

According to Condit, there is a cost involved with employees’ time to handle and haul recyclables, but the convenience of the city having a baler is a big plus for any Kenmare business.

Condit said Gooseneck employees take a lot of pride in recycling because it keeps the Kenmare business looking good, it keeps those items from piling up at the city dump and it’s the right thing to do.

But the cost of recycling vs. revenue is something that Kenmare Mayor Roger Ness is concerned about.

It cost the city approximately $14,500 for the recycling program in 2014, which is down from the 2013 peak of $15,800.

But in the past five years, recycling costs have increased steadily. In 2010, the cost was approximately $6,800, mostly for labor and freight.

Recycling revenue has also doubled since 2010, but has only gone from $1,500 to $3,000, money generally paid to the city from Kalix, which is the recycling collection center in Minot.

So it’s costing the city money, according to Ness, but there is hope.

During the January city council meeting, it was announced that Waste Management was increasing its fee to haul items from the Kenmare landfill.

That alone, was enough for Ness to consider the alternative.

Although recycleable material kept out of a landfill is hard to quantify, Ness told the council, “the more that’s kept out of the landfill, the less the city has to pay Waste Management.”

And that could be the spark Kenmare needs to energize more residents and businesses to get involved with local recycling.

But Ness cautions although the idea is a good one, how long will Emmel continue working and when he retires, will the city want to continue the program.

Emmel has no intention of going anywhere. He’s been working in the center for 14 years and not only enjoys the interaction with people coming in every week, but sees first hand the benefit of recycling. Part of his workload includes the landfill which would get real ugly if 120 tons of loose and wet cardboard were going out there.

And, he adds, there’s the baler that has reduced the volume of cardboard and  has been working well the entire time he has been operating it.

“It takes a lot of time when you have one guy doing it,” Emmel said. “But if you think about all the stuff that goes into the landfill, most of it can be reused.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!