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Abuse at recycling, compost sites frustrates city

The signs at the compost site in Morris announce the site does not allow brush or branches. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times1 / 4
The signs at the recycling site announce that only recycled items are allowed. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times2 / 4
Some of the non-recyclable items left at the recycling site in Morris. Submitted photo3 / 4
Leaves and other debris dumped at the compost site when conditions were not good. Submitted photo4 / 4

Some users seem to be having a tough time properly using the compost site and recycling site in Morris.

Some people have been treating the compost site like a trash pile, city manager Blaine Hill said.

"Somebody dropped off a toilet. I mean, really," Hill said of an example of how the compost site has been abused.

"We can't have garbage in the compost site," said Troy Engebretson of Engebretson Sanitary Service. Engebretson picks up the city's compost material and uses it on its landfill. The compost material turns into dirt which Engebretson uses a cover on the demolition landfill, he said.

Just like the compost site, the recycling drop-off site is located on the grounds of the city's public works facility. The compost and recycling sites are free to use. The city is a host site for Stevens County which administers the recycling program in the county.

When someone abuses the recycling site, somebody else pays for it.

Engebretson said when items such as mattresses, TVs and other waste are dumped at the recycling site, "we end up taking it at our expense."

Engebretson Sanitary Service hauls the recycled material away to a buyer, but the market for recycling has been poor the past four months.

So, when non-recyclable materials such as window glass or landscaping plastic or lawn chairs and similar are placed in the recycling bin, those items have to be removed, Engebretson said. That takes time, and ultimately money, he said. If the items aren't removed the value of the recyclable material decreases, he said.

Hill has been so frustrated with the recent abuse at the recycling site he said at an April 23 council meeting, "The recycling bin area, that should be shut down."

County coordinator Becky Young said on May 3 that she and Bill Kleindl, the county environmental services director, haven't received any complaints about the recycling site.

It's important to have a recycling site for county residents which includes residents in Morris, Young said. Curbside service is offered at sites in the county but some residents need a site like Morris and even those with curbside service may need to use the Morris site, Young said.

"In a town outside of the county, we pulled our recycling trailer out of there. It was getting filled with garbage all the time," Engebretson said. "Hopefully, that doesn't happen here."

While there could be abuse, if a recycling site is removed, it gives residents one less option and it could create more problems, Young said.

"The county picks up disposed things all the time from ditches, random garbage in ditches," Young said.

"Garbage and recycling are challenges for all of us," Young said. But if there is one less option to recycle, the items could end up in ditches, she said.

Engebretson said the abuse in Morris at the recycling site tends to be seasonal when people are cleaning homes and lawns in the spring and fall. As with abuse at the city's compost site, it's just a few users that can cause problems for the majority, he said.

Engebretson said he has a better alternative than dumping non-recyclable items in the recycling site. Residents can call Engebretson Sanitary Service to pick up non-recyclable items such as lawn furniture, mattresses and similar items for a fee. People can put smaller items in the garbage, he said. Or they can haul items to the landfill and pay a fee for disposal.

The compost pile is for organic matter such as leaves, grass clippings and garden waste, Hill said. The compost pile is not a place for dumping trees and branches or waste, he said. Those items need to go to the landfill where people can pay for disposal.

When tree branches and bushes are in the compost site, someone needs to remove them.

Hill said city employees spend time removing tree branches and other undesired items from the compost site because if those items stay in the compost material taken to the landfill, the city pays for it.

Engebretson said if an individual has tree branches and bushes in compost material hauled to the landfill, they will be charged.

Hill said the garbage, tree branches and bush material recently dumped at the compost site has been frustrating for the city. And recently when the site was closed because it was too wet and muddy, some people ignored the yellow tape stretched across the site and dumped material anyway, he said.

Hill said the city could decide to close the site if improper use continues or increases.

"It's a good set-up. Hopefully it doesn't get bad enough to shut it down," Engebretson said.

If the city closed the compost site, people would need to haul their compost material to Engebretson's.

But, there are other less drastic measures the city can also take, Hill said. "Maybe we need better signage to say this is what's allowed," he said.

There is a sign at the compost site that says no trees or brush allowed. The site also has recycling containers nearby but people still dump garbage bags of leaves instead of removing the leaves from the bag, Hill said.

Another option is to put a fence around the compost site and set hours for disposal. Another option is to install security cameras and use that to identify people who misuse the site, Hill said. "We could issue a citation or give them a stern warning," Hill said.

Engebretson has said there are users who have helped to remove unwanted items from the site.

Hill said at the April 23 council meeting he was recently at the compost site and saw an elderly resident who was dumping material not allowed at the site. When he told the woman that was not allowed she told Hill to "leave me alone," he said.

Hill and Engebretson said people using the recycling and compost site need to use common sense. And, Hill said, they can't just believe that because they pay taxes that the city or someone else will take care of what they wrongly dumped in the recycling site.