TRASH TALK: These EPA grants could help our local recycling infrastructure

This Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling grant opportunity would help provide infrastructure as we prepare to deal with construction and demolition debris when our unlined landfills close.


Beltrami County Solid Waste is participating in two group Environmental Protection Agency grant applications that could help out not only our county's solid waste management system but also the northwestern part of Minnesota.

Beltrami County has a long history of working with Polk County and the Solid Waste Advisory Board, which consists of commissioners and solid waste directors from Beltrami, Polk, Hubbard, Clearwater, Norman and Mahnomen Counties.

Polk County is applying for an EPA Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling (SWIFR) grant that could bring in $4 million in funds to help improve infrastructure at both the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) Located in Fosston as well as the Source Separated Organics Material (SSOM) Composting facility.

The MRF located in Fosston is very unique. It is one of the few waste-to-energy facilities in the U.S. to process municipal solid waste by removing recyclable materials from the waste stream before waste disposal.

It may be the only one in the U.S. that removes plastic No. 1, 2 and 5 from the waste stream and may also be the only one that processes single-stream recyclables on the same equipment.


The proposed SWIFR project related to robots would result in the staffing of vacant recycling stations that were unable to be filled due to the labor shortage. Due to the inability to fill those positions, recycling equipment has been turned off and those recycling stations closed for significant amounts of time.

The proposed SWIFR project related to the compost facility — compost pad and ASP technology — would result in maximizing the existing facility's compostable material storage and processing capacity.

Each ton of material that is diverted from disposal at a landfill to either reuse, recycling or composting results in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) generation.

The second SWIFR grant application is in partnership with Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard, Marshall, Mahnomen, Norman, Polk and Red Lake Counties.

We have been working together for the past year looking at what we are going to do when our current unlined landfill becomes full within the next few years. This group has anywhere between five to 10 years left before their landfills are at capacity and the state has already said they are not going to permit any more unlined landfills.

This group is looking at all the options that are available and we are proposing to implement a “hub and spoke system” for construction and demolition debris. This system would replace unlined landfills that are in our counties.

Creating a regional solid waste management hub and spoke system would provide new, or expand upon existing access to, reuse, recycling, composting and responsible disposal of materials within our nine counties.

This system would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by facilitating the hauling of large loads in lieu of hauling many small loads to the hub and promote beneficial reuse at each spoke.


This SWIFR grant opportunity would help provide infrastructure in each of the counties listed so we are prepared to deal with construction and demolition debris in our counties when our unlined landfill close.

For more information, visit

Brian Olson is the solid waste administrator and public works safety coordinator for Beltrami County. He can be reached at

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