In Lincoln County, located along the South Dakota border in the southwest Minnesota, it was a long-held belief that garbage burning was the only affordable option for managing waste in rural areas.
Knowing the dangers related to burning trash, staff from Lincoln County wanted to learn about residential perceptions, knowledge, and behaviors related to burning garbage. In the summer of 2007, county staff surveyed area residents that visited their booth at the Lincoln County Fair. From the survey they learned:
- Of the 107 surveyed, more than half were farmers
- Ninety-six percent recycled either through a pickup service or a community drop-off facility
- Most residents were aware of the risks associated with burning garbage
- Cost and convenience was a common factor in choosing to burn; and
- They would change their habits if they had other cost-effective garbage collection options
The results of the survey helped convince the county board to pursue a grant from the MPCA. In 2008, Lincoln County received a grant from the MPCA to reduce garbage burning through alternative garbage collection options.
Garbage collection strategy
Armed with the knowledge that nearly all residents participate in recycling, Lincoln County explored another method of garbage collection by placing garbage dumpsters at the nine existing community recycling facilities.
Initially, the garbage dumpsters were serviced every two weeks, however, due to an overwhelming response, they had to double their capacity and increase collection to weekly service. Additionally, they saw in increase in their recycling and textile/clothing collection.
During the testing phase of the project 25 percent of rural residents took their garbage to one of the drop-off locations. Today, nearly 60 percent of rural residents are participating in the drop-off service. Some prohibited materials, such as tires, hazardous waste, or appliance are occasionally dropped off and are managed on a case-by-case basis.
Although the burning of garbage has been greatly reduced, a new set of challenges has emerged: Agricultural waste. Agricultural waste consists primarily of plastic products such as buckets, grain sacks, baling twine, and silage bags and when burned gives off toxins. To accommodate the large volume being brought to the drop-off sites, the county is exploring other options to address this type of waste.
Overall, the community waste and recycling drop off facilities have proven to be convenient and affordable.
Cost comparison for residential collection
Rural collection: $110-115 per month for a two-yard container serviced twice a month
Community drop-off site: $30 per month
For more information about this project, contact:
Robert E. Olsen, Administrator, Lincoln County Environmental Services
ROlsen@co.lincoln.mn.us (507) 694-1344