(Fargo, ND) -- Fargo Solid Waste Department Recycling Coordinator Jen Pickett spoke with WDAY Radio about their private and commercial solid waste pickup services, where the materials end up, and how they are powering homes in Fargo.
Garbage, Landfill, and Recycling
"Solid Waste Department is responsible for the collection of commercial and residential garbage and commercial and residential recycling, "said Pickett, summarizing the goal of Fargo's Solid Waste Department.
An 18 truck fleet is sent to pick up residential and commercial garbage and recycling across the city each weekday. An additional two to four "roll-off" trucks are used to distribute dumpsters that are loaned for residential or commercial purposes for a fee applied per dumping. Pickett estimates Fargo Solid Waste reaches 26,000 residential accounts per week, plus an additional 1,000 commercial accounts with varying frequency.
Anywhere between 300 to 400 trucks cross the weighing station at the landfill per day, where garbage is taken and processed. A total of 223 thousand tons of material was processed at the landfill in 2021. This includes items collected through the roll-off service, large item disposal, temporary container disposal, and the annual clean up week. Residents can also take items to the landfill under various conditions. A full list of items not allowed at Fargo's landfill and the general rules for garbage disposal can be found here.
Recycling is picked up from homes, commercial areas, and designated drop sites throughout Fargo; all of which are taken to Minnkota Recycling. Pickett says the material is then lifted into a bailing machine to prepare for transit, each bale weighing an estimated 2,000 lbs. The bales are then delivered to a facility near Minneapolis for separation and processing.
"After the materials are all separated, [they] sell it to secondary markets that make plastic bottles into carpet and cardboard into tissue paper," said Pickett.
Hazardous Waste and The Reuse Room
Only Fargo residents (with limited exceptions) are allowed to dispose of household hazardous waste. Individuals can dispose of the items at no charge by bringing it to the facility located at 606 43 1/2 Street North during business hours. Items that are labeled as dangerous, toxic, poisonous, corrosive, or flammable can be brought to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility. Items the facility accepts include thinners, paints, automotive fluids, and other various items. A full list of items and more information of the Household Hazardous Waste Facility can be found by clicking here.
The Reuse Room is filled with items that residents can stop by and take. Items like monitors, TV's, keyboards, paints, drywall materials, lawn care products, automotive products, can all be found in the room. The items are taken from the landfill or by residents, are sorted through by workers at the facility, and then left in The Reuse Room to be taken on a first-come first-serve basis.
"Starting to slow down now, there might be ten or fifteen people who come into The Reuse Room a day right now. In the spring or summer [there] could be upwards of a hundred [people per day]," said Pickett.
Energy Production and The Future
The landfill produces methane as a byproduct of bacteria breaking down and decomposing organic materials. Fargo Solid Waste sends some of the methane to a nearby sunflower seed processing plant to power boilers in the building, but also captures some of the methane that is produced at the landfill to power a generator at the landfill.
"[There's] enough electricity to power 700 homes a day," said Pickett, " We sell that electricity back to the grid... Some of that methane is also used to heat our transfer station."
Pickett shared some potential ways to expand their operations and plans for the future. This includes the possible building of an incinerator and material recovery facility, so garbage and recycling could go to the same place and be separated in a single process. She also spoke about the need to build an additional landfill sometime within the next 20 years, or before the current landfill becomes filled or inoperable.
You can learn more about Fargo's Solid Waste Department by clicking here.