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4 Twin Cities landfills seek to expand capacity

This comes as the area's waste-to-energy facilities are operating at capacity.
Landfill plastic bags

Four landfills in the Twin Cities metro area are seeking to expand their capacity, which hasn't been done in decades.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is considering allowing these facilities, which are in Shakopee, Burnsville and two in Inver Grove Heights, to expand how much waste they take in since the area's waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities are operating at full capacity, according to the MPCA website.

The capacity of the area's WTE facilities increased, reaching capacity in the first quarter of 2020, due to the Great River Energy Resource Recovery Facility in Elk River closing in January 2019. This meant more unrecyclable waste produced from Twin Cities metro area residents had to go to landfills in the area, the MPCA said. 

The Elk River WTE facility represented 33% of the seven-county metro's WTE capacity and processed the same amount of waste annually as a large landfill.

Because of this, the MPCA found it would be necessary to expand the capacity at Twin Cities metro area landfills. So, in the summer of 2020, the MPCA notified landfills that it was accepting applications from landfills in order to expand their capacity. 

The last time landfills in the Twin Cities metro area expanded their capacity was in the early 2000s, the MPCA says. That space was intended to last about a decade. 

The landfills in the Twin Cities that have submitted an application, which was due Jan. 18, are: 

The MPCA is evaluating the applications from the landfills and will release its preliminary determination this spring. There will be a public comment period prior to the final determination on landfill capacity, which is expected by this summer. 

Landfills are the MPCA's least preferred method of dealing with solid waste, with reducing, reusing, and recycling the most preferred methods of cutting back on waste. 

The MPCA notes the 53% of waste created in the Twin Cities metro area needs to be disposed of in a landfill or a waste-to-energy facility, while the recycling rate in the metro area is 47% as of 2019, the MPCA says. 

This is an improvement from 2016 when the recycling rate was 43%, with the MPCA calling this an accomplishment, but said Minnesotans need to recycle more in order to meet the legislatively mandated goal of a recycling rate of 75%.

Meanwhile, the Star Tribune notes the state of Minnesota has a goal of dumping just 2% of trash in landfills by 2020, with all other waste being recycled or incinerated. 

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