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Monday, Dec. 22, 2014

Recycling numbers climb for Van's Sanitation

Monday, September 10, 2012

(Photo)
Workers at Van's Sanitation & Recycling sort recyclables as they travel along a conveyor belt at the Le Mars company's new facility. Part-owners Terry Baartman, far right, and Scott Vander Sluis (not pictured) operate the sorting facility, which started processing recyclables for Plymouth and Cherokee counties this past April.
Van's Sanitation & Recycling is sorting more recyclables today than when it started the process in Plymouth County several months ago.

This past April the Le Mars company began handling residential recyclables, after the county stopped hauling those materials to the Cherokee County Landfill.

That month Van's processed 80,000 tons compared to the current 85,000 to 90,000 tons a month from Plymouth County, said Scott Vander Sluis, part-owner of Van's.

(Photo)
Workers sort recyclables from Plymouth and Cherokee counties at a facility owned by Van's Sanitation & Recycling. In addition to sorting, paper materials are baled with a recycling baler at the new facility in the former ICON Ag building, north of Le Mars.
Van's also sorts recyclables for Cherokee County, bringing the monthly total for both counties to 110,000 to 120,000 tons, Vander Sluis said.

Operations have been running smoothly at the sorting facility, located in the former ICON Ag building, north of Le Mars, he said.

In the beginning, all types of residential recyclables from plastics to paper were sorted at the facility and baled there, Vander Sluis said.

Baling is done with a machine that compacts the material into blocks.

However, the baling process changed when it became apparent the sorting facility couldn't keep up with volume, he said.

"Now only paper gets baled here," Vander Sluis said. "Everything else we take back to the commercial side."

Van's does commercial recycling at its main facility located in the Le Mars Industrial Park.

There have also been changes as to how the recyclable materials are sorted which, in turn, has increased productivity, Vander Sluis said.

"We've refined it and made the bins and it made life a lot easier," he said.

Vander Sluis explained the sorting: materials are dumped on a conveyor belt, workers take the items off and put them into separate bins, allowing only paper to go into the baler.

The bins filled with plastics or tin are transported from the sorting center to the commercial facility, while the paper is baled on site, he said.

Currently, the sorting facility and baler can handle 1 ton of materials an hour, but the hope is to construct a larger building and purchase equipment than can do 8 tons an hour, Vander Sluis said.

"It is a wish and dream that we do have," he said. "I'm figuring out the cost."

He estimated the new building would be about 100-by-300 feet in size and would be built near Van's facility in the industrial park.

There are currently five employees working at Van's sorting facility. However, if the business expands that number could increase to 10 or 12, Vander Sluis said.

"To do the building I would want to double the tonnage," he said.

That means seeking more customers, he said.

"I do have other proposals out, but I have to wait and see how they come out," Vander Sluis said.

He said it's important for Van's to be a leader in the recycling industry because it will be the largest part of garbage pickup in the future.

"We want to do everything we can to help the counties," Vander Sluis said. "Burying it in the landfill is not the way to go."

In fact, he predicted that in five to 10 years nothing will go into landfills, Vander Sluis said.

Since taking on residential recycling in Plymouth and Cherokee counties, he said Van's has been turning a profit.

That means he has been able to pay the Plymouth County Landfill $10 ton for its recyclables.

As for the price recyclables sell for, that number fluctuates depending on the market which could affect the amount he can pay counties, Vander Sluis said.

"The $10 could go up. It could come down," he said. "That $10 goes along with the market."

Based on the volume of recyclables coming through the door, Vander Sluis said residents' participation has been good.

"Of course we have a few things to work on like (residents) mixing garbage in it, but that is just an education thing," he said. "The support from the cities and landfill has been awesome."



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