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BSU student offers curbside recycling

Trevor Plendl, 21, empties a customer's recycling containers recently while working to complete his route. Plendl, a Bemidji State University student, has founded Plendl Environmental L.L.C., which offers curbside recycling services to residents in Bemidji's Ward 1. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The city of Bemidji opted to discontinue its curbside recycling program in 2007.

But now, select residents have seen that service return, albeit on a smaller scale.

Trevor Plendl, 21, a Bemidji State University student from Blaine, Minn., has founded Plendl Environmental L.L.C., a business offering curbside recycling services to residents in Bemidji's Ward 1, near the BSU campus.

Of his 16 customers, Plendl said he has a "nice mix" of college students, residents and families.

"A lot of people were former fans of the free recycling program," he said. "They were appalled to see it go out. They've been more than willing to pay for the service."

Earlier this year, Plendl was bringing his own recycling to a transfer station in town and began considering the lack of a curbside program for city residents.

"I started thinking about what I could do to address the recycling (need) in Bemidji," Plendl said.

He went online and bought some recycling bins, handing them out to his friends. Plendl told them to call him when they were full and he would come and get them.

That was early April. Plendl now has 16 customers, who are paying $3 a month this summer for his service.

"It's a lot easier to establish relationships with people in the summer," he said.

It takes him about two hours to complete his pick-up route Sunday mornings. He then goes to Beltrami Recycling Inc. to drop off metals, Brad's Sanitation for fibers (cardboard and paper), and takes the rest to a Waste Management transfer station.

Plendl Environmental does not make a profit. Any proceeds from the recyclables and customers' bills have, to date, been reinvested into the company to buy more bins and basically reimburse him for mileage and vehicle wear.

But that's not to say that things couldn't change in the future. "If it has the potential, I would love to dive into it full time," he said. "I would love to do that."

For now, though, he is limiting the service to those living mainly in the Ward 1 area near BSU, which allows him to keep the size of the operation manageable.

Plendl, in addition to running his company, is a full-time student at BSU and has a full-time job at Countryside Restaurant. He even is taking summer classes.

But, what will happen once he earns his diploma in a few years?

"I came up here on purpose," Plendl said. "I love this town. More and more, I've fallen in love with it here. I really don't plan on leaving."