By YES! Coordinator Jonathan Morales
The DREAM Technical Academy YES! Team united on March 27th in Willmar to get up close and personal with waste. Most people are able to tell you that the 3 Rs of the environment are Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. At the DREAM Waste Reduction Workshop, the attendees explored each of these R’s and got know them a little better.
The day started out with Jay Baker from Kandiyohi County Hazardous Waste. The students were greeted with two large tables full of all kinds of waste that could be harmful and even deadly if not disposed of properly. When Jay showed off the hydrofluoric acid that could easily eat through someone’s hand, everyone stood just a little further away! Jay emphasized that reduction of hazardous waste starts with all of is, the consumers. This is primarily done by buying smart, such as buying non-toxic versions of products and using only as much as necessary. Jay sees hazardous waste such as DDT coming in to his facility on a monthly basis, so he emphasized that everyone must think twice about what chemicals they use.
Next, after a short walk, the students met with Derek Amundson, Recycling Coordinator, who walked everyone through the Recycling Center facility. As they entered, students were greeted by the can recycling station where the public can bring aluminum cans and get about $0.44/lb for them. This goes up 5 cents on Earth Day, getting people to bring in the BIG loads. Derek pointed out that recycling can save serious energy; for instance, by recycling one aluminum can you save enough electricity to power a 100-watt light bulb for 20 hours.
The Kandiyohi County Landfill was the next stop. It didn’t take students long to start to appreciate the smell of methane coming from the mountain of garbage in front of them. Jeff Bredberg, Director of Environmental Services, explained how a landfill works. Landfills should be the last resort for waste. Reducing, reusing, and recycling waste is preferable and most times has multiple benefits. Nonetheless, we must be responsible with landfills and do so by constructing them with barriers so that they do not leach harmful contaminants into the groundwater. Kandiyohi is currently working with a company that is developing a filtering technique that would replace collecting, hauling, and treating leachate at a water treatment plant. The leachate from the landfill can then be turned into clean water with the contaminants placed back in the landfill.
The team wrapped up the day when they returned to DREAM Academy to see how the school is doing with their own waste. Derek walked the students through a waste audit: they took one garbage can and sorted through the waste to see what was recyclable and what truly belonged in the garbage. This was eye opening to everyone: they realized just how much room there is for improvement. As with many things, education is a great place to start when working on sustainability. Every day we are confronted with things that could be waste, but through this workshop the students solidified their appreciation of the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!