Thanks to a $200,000 bargain buy of quality used recycling equipment from Polk County, the Becker County recycling center will be able to sort commodities quicker and more efficiently.

From twice to four times as fast, to be precise. It will increase the sorting capacity of bottles and cans from one ton per hour to 2-4 tons per hour, and will increase the recovery rate by 18 percent of the materials missed during the sorting process.

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"This equipment will allow us to process commodities a lot faster without adding staff," Becker County Environmental Services Administrator Steve Skoog told the county board recently.

Of course, first the county has to get the equipment installed.

While the board voted to go ahead with the $200,000 purchase from Polk County, Becker County commissioners balked at paying another $300,000 to Titus Maintenance and Installation Services to install the equipment.

Becker County Commissioner Larry Knutson said the proposed $300,675 cost of installing the equipment in the Becker County material recovery facility is "outrageous," and Skoog said he will look into the feasibility of having the installation done locally.

He proposes to use county gravel tax funds to pay for the installation.

"The amount of recycling that's happening is definitely on the rise," Skoog said, and the new equipment will help the county keep up with the influx from curbside recycling bins and its big blue bins located around the county.

The $200,000 comes from a state grant originally designated for demolition debris recycling, but the county got the OK to use it for the used equipment instead, Skoog said.

The equipment will allow for more precise sorting of recyclables, enabling the county to pinpoint markets and maximize its revenue. "It will help our bottom line considerably," he told commissioners.

The equipment includes an eddy current machine (used to sort aluminum), an NRT SpydiR optical sorter (to sort plastic containers) and a number of stands and conveyors, all sized for the 48-inch system already used by Becker County.

Since Becker County's recycling center opened last June, "staff has been able to process the single-stream, cardboard and bottles/cans delivered to the facility, while incurring some overtime during periods of heavy volume," Skoog wrote in a memo to the board. He projects that the amount of recyclables delivered to the recycling center will grow this summer compared to last summer. Skoog said his department has responded to market changes in several ways:

To increase the value and lower shipping costs of mixed paper, staff has started sorting it onto different grades; just as it has with plastic containers to enhance market value.

The county has also started sorting and baling plastic film from agricultural, commercial and industrial sources, he said.

Polk County contacted Becker County last November looking to sell good-quality used processing equipment, since it was retrofitting its material recovery facility in Fosston to create more processing capacity there, Skoog said.

Polk County could have got more by selling out-of-state, but was looking for an in-state buyer to keep the equipment in Minnesota, since state grant funds helped pay for it in the first place, Skoog said.