Landfill construction recycling is one-of-a-kind program

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Plymouth County Landfill has taken recycling a step further than any other landfill in Iowa.

It is the first in the state to have a Construction and Demolition (C&D) Recycling program, said Mark Kunkel, landfill manager.

Since starting in January, about 130 tons of asphalt shingles, wood without paint or stain, concrete and metal have been removed from the C&D area of the landfill, he said.

"That was sorted out. It will not be buried," Kunkel added. "It was all recycled."

Sorting those materials is done with a mini-excavator that was purchased with the help of a $20,000 forgivable loan from the Department of Natural Resources, Kunkel said.

The excavator has a "thumb" which attaches to an arm and can pick things up,

When it comes to the asphalt shingles, a little more than 80 ton has been sorted out of the landfill's C&D area since the first of the year, he said.

"Then later this summer they will be ground and used in asphalt roads," Kunkel said of the shingles.

That grinding will be done by Kolbeck Inc., of Le Mars, and will take place at the landfill. The ground shingles will then be shipped out, Kunkel said.

He expects the landfill will generate some revenue from the shingle recycling, but doesn't have figures at this point.

"We've been talking to a company," Kunkel said. "We'll know more after we do this once."

Not only do shingles get recycled, but so do the clean wood, the concrete and the metal sorted out of the C&D area.

"The clean wood runs an ethanol plant in Chandler, S.D.," Kunkel said. "They grind it and haul it out of here for nothing."

The concrete is crushed and used on the road inside the landfill, and the metal is baled and sold, he said.

Kunkel expects the amount of asphalt shingles, clean wood, concrete and metal sorted for recycling will increase now as more construction begins.

"By removing all these things, it saves us space and adds years of life to our facility here, which provides serviceability for the people of Plymouth County," Kunkel said.

To put it into perspective, in the first three months of the C&D recycling program, the 130 tons of material have saved 215.5 cubic yards of landfill space, he said.

"I think it's good," Kunkel said of the program. "It's been doing very well."

Another aspect associated with the C&D recycling program hasn't been so positive.

"By us doing this we are finding a lot of chemicals in our C&D area," Kunkel said.

Because items such as paint, stains and household chemicals are coming to the landfill, he has taken to posting signs warning residents of the consequences -- a $500 fine.

"When we hit that stuff with machinery, it breaks open and then it contaminates the soil," Kunkel said. "It has a better chance of getting into our ground water."

There is already a warning sign on the scale at the landfill and more signs are being given to haulers to place on roll-off boxes, often used by residents or companies for C&D waste, Kunkel said.

"My biggest goal is to teach our public not to place that stuff into those containers because we really need to keep that stuff out of that area," he said. "We would like to see them use the cleanup days we have marked for every city."

Le Mars and Oyens residents can, by appointment only, bring that type of waste to the Le Mars Street Department from 10 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. Wednesday, May 11.

Residents can call Le Mars City Hall at 548-4958 for advance appointments.

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