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Tons of paper, metal, obsolete electronics dug up, recycled during big county cleanup

County cleanup day had Joyce Holm (left) and Tracy Loreth from the County Assessor's Office hauling garbage out of their workspace to be recycled.

Becker County employees recently rolled up their sleeves for some serious spring cleaning, and the result was a huge weight lifted off them.

Tons of weight, to be exact.

After their May afternoon of going through and cleaning out county offices, a recent report filed by County Administrator Tom Mortenson is astounding.

Not all of the county departments were able to participate in the cleanup day, but the ones that did, produced about three tons of paper, three tons of metal, two dumpsters full of obsolete electronics and 28 file cabinets -- all of which will either be recycled or re-used.

Mortenson, a retired military colonel, likes a clean, efficient working space, and says this will ultimately save time and resources.

"You're not having to go through hundreds and hundreds of files to find what you need, and it saves the taxpayers money," said Mortenson, "because instead of spending $8,400 on new filing cabinets, we can now use the ones that have been cleaned out and emptied."

Mortenson says they won't have to buy new pens or sticky-notes for a while, as desk-cleanouts provided an abundance of "lost" office supplies.

The employees even ventured into the county vault.

"Boy, that was a treat," Mortenson said, as he talked of boxes full of records that should have been destroyed years ago.

"We even found one that said, 'destroy in 1986.'"

Mortenson says he believes keeping the county buildings clean and organized not only improves employee morale, but is a duty they owe the taxpayers.

"We want our citizens visiting our buildings to see that it's clean, it's efficient, and it works."

Becker County Recycling Coordinator Sandy Gunderson says this event was much more significant than an afternoon of cleaning, but something that changes the way the county employees think.

"They see that things can be re-used ... they bring these ideas to their own households for things such as compost and recycling," Gunderson said, "and once you see how much less you have for garbage, it makes you realize that it's not just garbage, it's a resource."

And for the county, garbage is a monetary resource, as recycled materials collected at the transfer station bring in money that is then used to enhance the recycling program.

"We've just put a bunch of new dumpsters around the community and have hired drivers and trucks for retrieving it all -- that has really improved the efficiency of the program," said Mortenson.

Cleanup day was deemed such a success by Mortenson, he says county employees will take another stab at the unfinished business in the fall.

"We want to make it more of a team-building event though," said Mortenson, "Who knows, maybe we'll reach out to the city and other community organizations for a challenge."

Gunderson believes a challenge like this would be an incredible way to inspire people to begin participating in the recycling movement, if they haven't already.

"It doesn't have to be hard," said Gunderson, "If we each do just a little it ends up being a lot, and it does make a difference."