Written by Sam Horner, Northeast YES! Coordinator
On December 18th, the Virginia High School YES! team visited the St. Louis County Regional Landfill and Recycling Center. The team wanted to visit this site because one of their projects for the year will include them creating videos to encourage their fellow students to be less wasteful and hopefully recycle more. We visited the recycling center, the landfill, and learned many things about St. Louis County waste.
To start the tour off, we met with Steve Pellinen who brought us to where all of the plastic and cardboard is dropped off. This location had a mountain of recyclables. All of the recyclables are pushed onto a conveyor belt and then hand sorted by just a few workers. Steve said that the county recycles only about 30% of what could actually be recycled. He said that they have problems with dirty recyclables that are thrown away and other items that people are too indifferent about to try and recycle. The students were able to see where all the recyclables are sorted and then we went to the landfill.
On our way to the landfill, Steve mentioned that the road we were traveling on was made of glass and other aggregate. They are not able to sell glass so they needed to find a place to use it and it worked great to keep their roads intact. When we made it to the landfill, the students were able to see how big of an area it takes to store our trash. It was amazing to think about how all our trash makes it to this one spot. Steve talked about how they only have about 24 years left on this site for storing trash until they reach full capacity. Despite this, they will work very hard to keep this site open for as long as possible.
Steve then talked about how this site interacts with the local watershed. For as long as the landfill has been in existence, they have never had a leak that would contaminate the local watershed. They have 19 different monitoring locations around the landfill and these are checked twice a year. The landfill also has multiple plastic layers at the bottom to make sure everything remains in the landfill.
After all the students’ questions were answered, the tour had been completed. Now it is up to the students to create their videos and hopefully they will be able to spearhead the change they want to see in their school. When their videos are complete, they hope to share them with their school and us. The team wants to be leaders in their school as far as recycling goes, and I cannot wait to see their results.
Major funding for the YES! program was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).