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RCO to stop sorting for Ketterling

Facility to transfer sorting duties to Sioux Falls company
Mavis Fodness

Officials with Rock County Opportunities (RCO) gave notice last month terminating a more than 20-year employment cooperation agreement with Ketterling Services Inc.
Ketterling handles the collection of the single-stream recycling program for residents of Luverne and drop-off points in Rock County.
Working with RCO, the recyclables were sorted at Ketterling’s South Cedar Street facility and Ketterling sold the materials.
Now that sorting and selling will take place in Sioux Falls.
“We are going to change the way we do business,” said Bill Ketterling of Ketterling Services. “There will be no change through the front door.”
Instead of sorting, Ketterling will transfer 100 percent of the recyclables collected in Rock County to Millennium Recycling in Sioux Falls.
The Rock County Commissioners authorized the five-year contract at their regular July 7 meeting with the city of Luverne supporting the decision.
When the agreement will start depends when Ketterling has all the transport equipment in place.
Until then, RCO will continue to staff the sorting center in Luverne as it seeks different employment options for up to 15 clients who currently work at the facility on a weekly basis.
RCO cites industry changes, hazards for the termination
When contacted after the commissioner’s meeting, Beth Bartels, RCO’s executive director, cited industry changes along with the potential health hazards to clients as factors to end the current recycling sort arrangements.
RCO is a private, non-profit organization that works with clients with various disabilities in developing life and career skills. Employment opportunities are provided in-house or with private businesses depending on a client’s ability.
Bartels said in the 20 years RCO has worked with Ketterling, automation is playing a bigger role in the recycling industry with machines completing the sorting rather than people.
“The writing was on the wall,” she said. “We had to do something before clients were out of a job. We wanted to be more proactive than to sit around waiting for their jobs to end.”
While automation was the primary factor in RCO’s decision, it wasn’t the only consideration.
Continued occurrences of dog feces and diapers mixed in with recyclables had Bartels increasingly concerned about worker safety.
Ketterling agreed.
On several instances, workers had to empty entire loads of recycles at the transfer station because contaminants made the load unusable. He said the instances were becoming more frequent, especially since single-stream collection began several years ago.
Ketterling said, however, that he doesn’t plan to automate his Luverne sorting facility.
County looks for ways to keep contaminants out, increase participation
Also at their July 7 meeting, commissioners discussed ways to keep foreign materials from contaminating recycling materials while looking for ways to increase the percentage of residents who recycle.
“You have a firm majority of the people who know how to recycle and then you have other folks who think of recycling as a garbage dump,” said commissioner Jody Reisch.
Of special concern are the recycling collection sites located in outlying Rock County communities. Luverne residents have curbside pickup.
Collection sites consist of three-sided buildings that house green-colored dumpsters. The public has 24/7 access to these sites.
Discussions to keep garbage from bring tossed into the recycling dumpsters included placing gates on the buildings to limit access to installing cameras “to keep people accountable for what they are doing,” Reisch said.
In December 2014, Land Management Director Eric Hartman told commissioners that Rock County’s recycling rates are considerably below the state’s goal.
“In 10 years, the state would like 60 percent of the residents of Rock County recycling household items,” he said. “Generally our rate has plateaued at 46 percent.”
Failure to meet the state’s goals could result in reduced funding.
Recycling reduces fossil fuel consumption, creates jobs, conserves natural resources and creates environmental benefits, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website.

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