Pilot project rescued good stuff from Becker County waste stream, now it's for sale

A “Trash 2 Treasure Sale” at the Becker County Transfer Station at 24455 County Road 144 runs from noon to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29.

Justin Priebnow of Better Futures Minnesota poses with some of the usable items he has helped capture from the waste stream at the Becker County Transfer Station. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)

A fair amount of good usable stuff comes through the waste stream at the Becker County Transfer Station -- turns out at least enough to fill up two large storage units in about a month -- and now all those salvaged items are for sale.

Good wooden doors, bicycles, windows, fences, appliances, metal picnic tables, metal fire pits, even a bidet, will be available at the “Trash 2 Treasure Sale” at the Becker County Transfer Station, 24455 County Road 144, from noon to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29. Debit or credit cards only. No cash or checks, please, says Sandy Gunderson with Becker County Environmental Services. “This is exciting,” she said. “We’ve been talking about this for a while.”

People generally hate throwing away things that are still useful, and the Becker County Waste Diversion and Material Reuse Pilot Project is designed to assess what is reusable in the county’s waste stream, and demonstrate the significant, multiple benefits of diverting household goods and building materials from the landfill.

The county is partnering on the pilot project with Better Futures Minnesota, and the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota – Duluth.

Each year, Becker County residents and businesses throw away tons of material, but some of this material still has a useful life or can be used for a new purpose, Gunderson said. By diverting reusable materials at this transfer station, the county is reducing its landfill and hauling costs, creating new jobs, and reducing the emission of harmful emissions. And the county is offering these used materials and products for sale to residents at a very affordable price.


The project has been fun for Justin Priebnow of Better Futures Minnesota in the Twin Cities. He and a worker with Green Corps have spent about a month treasure-hunting for usable things in loads of demolition debris and pickup loads of stuff going through the Becker County Transfer Station.

Metal tables and fire pits come from the metal pile, reusable lumber, windows and doors come from the demo pile, good concrete pavers are rescued from the concrete pile. “There’s so much stuff every year that goes to the landfill that people can use,” he said. “I kind of enjoy finding stuff that’s reusable,” he added. “My mom reuses furniture, and I’ve always found stuff for her at thrift stores and rummage sales.”

Residents and contractors supported the pilot study by helping staff identify and set aside reusable products and materials when they entered the Transfer Station, or at drop off sites around the landfill.

“I think it’s a good thing,” said Becker County Environmental Services Administrator Steve Skoog. “After the study, we’ll find out what we’re getting and what is the demand for it.”

Then it’s a matter of “what we want to do and who we want to do it -- most Minnesota communities have a nonprofit building materials reuse store. We don’t have that around here,” he said.

Funding for the pilot project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.


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