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Programs seek to inform public about waste reduction, recycling methods

A panel of local authorities gathered to discuss how waste is handled in Bemidji and Beltrami County during the Sustainable Tuesdays meeting at The Rail River Folk School.

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George Gaasvig recycles cardboard at one of several Waste Management's recycling canister on Tuesday afternoon. Many sites like this are located throughout Beltrami County. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

A panel of local authorities gathered to discuss how waste is handled in Bemidji and Beltrami County during the Sustainable Tuesdays meeting at The Rail River Folk School.

The weekly event included Waste Management Office Manager Mike Albrecht, City of Bemidji Water and Sewer Superintendent Todd Anderson, and Beltrami County Environmental Services Director Bill Patnaude.

According to MN GreenCorps Member Brett Cease, one of the biggest challenges of reducing waste is keeping community members informed on proper waste reduction or recycling methods.

"These programs are designed for community members to walk away informed and inspired," Cease said. "The real role of this meeting is for people to be fed accurate information right from the source."

Approximately 30 people attended the meeting that was set in a casual space with the ambient sound of local musicians playing next door. Panelists talked about their jobs and how they relate to waste while fielding questions from the audience.

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Patnaude has been working for the Beltrami County Environmental Services for 41 years. He talked about the difficulties in getting community members to correctly dispose of waste.

"A lot of people really struggle with garbage and do not comprehend that there is a large cost for handling and proper disposal of solid waste," Patnaude said. "There are times that I need to remind myself that it's a lot easier for me to understand.

Patnaude and Albrecht also talked about keeping Beltrami residents more informed and willing to reduce waste output. One option would be to provide an updated resource guide to every tax payer in Beltrami County on the Solid Waste Management Program.

Another option would be to develop a way to recognize and reward families that reduce waste.

For Wendy Larson, it was her third time attending a Sustainable Tuesdays meeting.

Larson is an information officer with Bemidji State University who is also involved with the environmental advisory committee. She is interested in finding out what sustainability issues are going on locally.

"It's important to know what can be done and what is already being done," Larson said. "We have to get the word out to people that haven't been informed."

Simone Senogles works with the Indigenous Environmental Network and worked in partnership with Cease to organize the meeting.

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"We want to talk about these issues and ways we can promote sustainability," Senogles said. "We want to draw information not only from our speakers, but also from each other."

Starting Feb. 6, the weekly meetings will be held on Mondays from 5:30-7:30 p.m. February's theme will focus on energy.

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