Winona County is entering the second year of a county-wide recycling program, the first in the state to offer curbside recycling pickup to all residents. As the program matures, some new rules are expected to help make the recycling contractor’s work easier during snowy winter months.
Beginning January 1, the following recycling rules will be in effect:
• Residents who bungee or tie down carts may continue to do so, but the carts must be untied on pickup day or they will not be emptied
• Carts should be placed within five feet of the curb on pickup day, the closer the better. Residents are asked to ensure carts aren’t buried or frozen into snow banks.
The new recycling program has brought with it some positive changes, including an estimated 50 percent increase in participation, compared to the previous program in which rural residents had to drive recyclable goods to township dumpsters. Anne Morse, Winona County Recycling Coordinator, said the tons collected with the new program have doubled. “We estimate that more than 90 percent of our residents are recycling, and that’s record-setting territory,” said Morse.
The new recycling program has also brought some problems. Because of unanticipated difficulty in picking up totes in rural locations as well as within the city of Winona, and because a subcontractor mistakenly distributed more than 600 recycling carts not included in the original contract agreement, county leaders and the recycling contractor have spent extra hours negotiating the contractor's demands for more money. Veolia, Inc., the company working under the original $730,000 contract, initially requested 20 percent more—$160,000 annually—to do the work. Winona County Commissioners recently agreed to offer the company $58,000 more than the original contract. Commissioner Marcia Ward voting against the increase.
Problems with the recycling program were identified shortly after it began in late 2011. First, the third-party contractor responsible for distributing the recycling totes to residents mistakenly delivered them to small businesses that were not included in the original contract, according to county staff. Nearly 600 totes were given to 146 businesses in the county that were not included in the agreement. Additionally, Veolia found it difficult to service at least 17 rural roadways, some found to be inaccessible during a snow event. In the city of Winona, Veolia found some areas where pickup at the curb was difficult, either because of the way the block was configured or because the alley was an easier spot for residents to place the tote for pickup. The company, according to county staff members, began sending trucks down both alleys and streets on about 241 blocks in Winona in January, although the original contract called for all totes to be serviced at the street curb.
Abiding by the new recycling rules—keeping carts close to the curb and ensuring they are free of snow and ice—will help Veolia employees during the winter when pickup can be harder. Veolia confirmed months ago that some Winona County roads cannot be serviced at all if there is snow on the ground. Morse said the county would still be charged for each residential stop, whether the service was rendered or not, and Veolia employees would treat the situation as a “holiday,” and pick up the goods when they could get there.