The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 8, 2011

Plastic recycling to grow in Mankato

By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — Starting in January, Mankatoans will be able to recycle more types of plastic, from bubble wrap to fast food containers.

Waste Management, Mankato’s hauler as well as the largest in the state, will be able to recycle plastic marked “1” through “7.” Only the first two types are currently recycled.

These numbers, called the plastic’s resin identification code, is typically placed on plastics and enclosed with a series of clockwise arrows.

There have been two changes that make the recycling expansion possible, said Julie Ketchum, who works in government affairs for Waste Management.

First, there are higher and more stable prices for different types of plastics. Second, the company has the technology available to retrofit its Twin Cities facilities.

Plastic bags and styrofoam are among the plastics that Waste Management still won’t recycle.

The movement toward more recycling is a trend driven both by individual haulers and by the development of markets for used plastic, said Wayne Gjerde, whose job it is to expand recycling opportunities for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

“As we dig deeper into the waste stream, a lot of people over the years have said ‘Hey, why can’t we recycle this?’” Gjerde said. Allied, the state’s second-largest hauler, is also taking steps similar to Waste Management’s, he said.

What consumers can recycle depends largely on whether or not their hauler has found a market for it, Gjerde said.

In North Mankato, plastics marked 1 through 7 are already collectable, Public Works Director Rich Peterson said.

“The market has come back some in the past year,” he said.

Many of the area’s smaller towns, such as Madison Lake, Janesville, Courtland, Nicollet and Eagle Lake, are serviced by LJP Waste and Recycling.

LJP President Larry Biederman said his company is looking to expand its recycling collection for residential customers, though the company’s main focus is on industrial waste. That might, for example, include bubble wrap, a type of polycarbonate represented on the resin identification code with the number “5.”

Increases in the cost of petroleum make plastics recycling more lucrative because plastics are made from petroleum. Another trend that works in plastics’ favor is its light weight for shipping purposes.

“I don’t even know if you can buy ketchup in a glass bottle,” Biederman said.