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SMSC organics recycling facility seeks new location

For several months, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Organics Recycling Facility has been operating at or near capacity. Due to space limitations, the SMSC is seeking a new location for its ORF.

The SMSC ORF is just one of two recycling facilities in the Twin Cities that takes organic food waste. Roughly 80,000 tons of material including yard waste, leaves and food waste are taken in by the facility each year, explained SMSC Operations Administrator Steve Albrecht.

When food waste arrives at the ORF, it’s mixed with yard waste and turned together over a 60 to 90-day period before it becomes fully composted. The compost material produced is richer than others as it’s made up of food waste and carbon materials making it good for gardens and restoration areas, he added.

Seeking a new locationThe ORF is currently located in a large prairie area with operations spanning roughly 35 acres, but the location at 1905 Mystic Lake Drive South in Shakopee isn’t where the SMSC would like to have its organics facility long term, Albrecht said.

“Organics facilities are a great amenity to the county but from a location standpoint there are times when we have odors, we work very diligently not to have odors, but also as we expand and use the property in that area it’s not the highest and best use for that property either,” he said. “The community doesn’t want to invest in expanding the facility at this location if this isn’t going to be the long term location for this facility and so we’ve been looking at alternative locations in Scott County for that facility,” Albrecht said.

The SMSC is working with Louisville Township to identify a site near the current Scott County landfill. Adjacent sites would be beneficial as it would help manage odors and if recyclable materials are collected curbside by garbage trucks they would be traveling to the same location, he said.

A delicate balanceBecause of the ORF’s footprint and inability to expand, the facility can only take in the average 80,000 tons a year —15,000 to 16,000 tons of it being food waste.

Residents can drop off food and yard waste to the facility for a fee, but the bulk of the organic material comes from schools, local businesses and casino-owned restaurants.

Once the material has been processed and turned into compost it’s resold for gardening, landscaping, mixing with other soil types and road construction projects.

“Composting is not a cheap process. It’s very labor intensive and so we have to be able to balance that out so that’s one of the restrictions we have right now is just making sure that enough organizations are using the end product material that there is a demand to be able to use up the material that we process,” Albrecht said.

COVID-19 impacts marketLike many businesses, COVID-19 has impacted the operations of the ORF, such as the amount of quality food material typically received.

“School districts, restaurants and other big food generators are big sources and obviously there hasn’t been any school for the most part as far as eating lunches and also the amount of waste from restaurants has greatly diminished, so we’re taking in less of that material,” Albrecht said.

While residential drop off only makes up a small fraction of material, the drop off events for Scott County residents held by the facility multiple times a year have also been cancelled due to the risk of COVID-19 exposure and limited resources.

The facility is also experiencing a decrease in demand for the compost as there have been fewer large road construction projects where the material would be used to replant grassy buffers along roadways. The ORF compost is also used to prepare and maintain baseball fields, but there has been less of a need as COVID-19 has restricted sports.

The solution to the siteExpanding isn’t an option when a new location is in the works, but the community is working with contractors, cities and counties to make sure use of the compost material is being specified in construction projects and to provide mulch for residential and commercial landscape use.

It’s important that residents understand and educate themselves on how to recycle for compost and the various ways they can use the end product in their personal life or business, Albrecht said.

“If we’re going to meet the goals necessary, we have to take advantage of the opportunities to utilize these materials whether it’s at home or on construction sites. That’s important because if we don’t have a place for it to be used we can’t recycle it,” he said. “Right now our primary focus is to keep doing the best we can to manage the existing site but continue to develop those markets where we can continue to use that process” Albrecht said.

For more information on the organic recycling facility visit smscorf.org.

Prior Lake teen Colin Glynn, center, sits in Mary’s Garden at St. Michael Catholic School with his brothers Ryan, left, and Ethan, right. With the help of his family, friends, fellow scouts and scout leaders, Colin turned Mary’s Garden into an outdoor learning space to be utilized by teachers and students.