BLUE EARTH - If you can't burn garbage, where do you take it?
With only two options in rural Faribault County, some people are dumping their garbage illegally, but Billeye Rabbe is trying to help.
Burning of household waste has been illegal in Minnesota since 1969, with some exemptions for rural areas that do not have access to garbage pickup, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which oversees enforcement. It hasn't been vigorously pursued until recently, but the state is committed to cracking down on the problem, said Rabbe, solid waste coordinator for Faribault and Martin counties.
"They're still burning out there (in the country), but the fines are pretty hefty," said Rabbe.
But there are some rural residents who don't want to burn, she added.
"It's a change over of ideas of rural people," Rabbe said. "They're less accepting of their neighbors burning stinky garbage."
And they're more aware of what's released when they do burn.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has implemented a "Ban the Burn Barrel" program and published information regarding the effects of burning garbage.
"Until a few decades ago, burning garbage in the backyard was much less dangerous to your health," according to the www.pca.state.mn.us/burnbarrel website. "Fifty years ago, most household garbage contained only untreated paper, wood and glass. Today's garbage contains paper, plastics, and other types of packaging waste that release a hazardous mixture of carcinogens and other toxics (such as lead, mercury, and arsenic) when burned."
One of the worst by-products of burning is dioxin, a known potent human carcinogen and endocrine disrupter, said the website.
"Dioxin exposure is especially harmful for children, pregnant women and the elderly," said the website.
Some of those who aren't burning are taking another route: leaving their garbage at drop-off sites for recyclables.
Maybe they don't know what else to do with it, maybe they don't care, or maybe they're trying to save some money, but it's the wrong way to do it, Rabbe said.
"When you put garbage at a recycling site, someone pays for that," she said. "It tends to be everyone in the county."
There's a better way, Rabbe said.
She's been working with two garbage companies to help folks get rid of their waste.
"It gives people a year-round option instead of just when I do a collection," Rabbe said.
B&B Sanitation, located at 549 S. Main Street in Winnebago, and Peterson Refuse and Demo, at 355 Third Street SE in Wells, will take garbage and large appliances from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Rabbe said folks should call the companies about arranging a drop-off on Saturdays.
The county pays for disposal, but there is a charge, $15, to drop off large items. If they're really large, there may be a bigger fee. Appliances taken include refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, microwaves, washers, dryers, air conditioners, computers, televisions, copiers, printers, scanners and DVD/VCR players.
Two sites didn't seem like a lot to Faribault County Commissioners when they discussed it recently. They said they'd like to see more sites. Rabbe plans to talk to Kiester City Council about adding a site in that town, but she knows more are needed.
"If we can find someplace in Blue Earth willing to do the same thing, that would be fabulous," she said.
The best way to cut down your trash is to sort out the recyclables first, Rabbe said.
Items that are 100 percent recyclable are electronics, glass, tin, aluminum and fluorescent bulbs, "including the mercury vapor," Rabbe said.
"If they've done a good job with recyclables, they have very little (garbage)," she said.
Faribault County's recycling drop-off sites are located in Bricelyn, Brush Creek, Delavan, Easton, Elmore, Frost, Guckeen, Huntley, Kiester, Minnesota Lake, Walters, Wells and Winnebago. Some are run by Waste Management and others are run by the townships. All are open any time. There is a recycling site for Blue Earth City Township rural residents south of the intersection of County Roads 16 and 13; a Hometown Sanitation truck will be on site the fourth Saturday of each month.
Word is getting out, and people are recycling.
Rabbe told Faribault County Commissioners that the Wells' site has collected six shipping containers - each roughly the size of a semi trailer - of electronics and appliances in just six months.
"Whenever I have the county-sponsored collections, I get a semi-load," Rabbe said.
For more information on what's recyclable, or specific locations in Faribault or Martin counties, contact Rabbe at (507) 238-3115; fax (507) 235-5772; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; or stop off at the Martin County Courthouse, Room 102. To report illegally dumped garbage, call local law enforcement.