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Metals taken from ash landfill to be recycled

Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management has partnered with Lab USA to recycle fine metals from ash at its landfill. Recycling of the metals from the non-hazardous ash should increase the life expectancy of the landfill. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 1 / 3
Pieces of non-ferrous metal, such as copper and aluminum, that have gone through the combustor at Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management, are separated at the ash landfill and will now be recycled. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 2 / 3
Coins, along with other non-ferrous metals, are removed during the separation process at the ash landfill. The metals will be recycled. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 3 / 3

Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management has taken another step in its recycling efforts, partnering with Lab USA to recycle fine metals from its ash landfill.

Lab USA specializes in metal recovery and its large metal recycling unit at the ash landfill is the first mobile unit in the world, according to Nick Trinka, Lab USA site supervisor.

The Pope/Douglas ash landfill, about two miles east of Hoffman on County Road 112, began receiving ash from Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management in 1994. It was designed to the standards of a hazardous waste landfill even though the ash disposed in it is not considered hazardous waste, said Steve Vrchota, executive director of Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management.

He said the new recycling equipment is used for harvesting both non-ferrous and ferrous metals. Non-ferrous metals include things made of aluminum, copper, brass and stainless steel, while ferrous metals include steel and wrought iron.

The ash runs through the equipment on a multi-conveyor belt system. Ferrous metals, Vrchota said, are picked up by a large magnet, put into a shipping container and then sent to a steel recycling plant.

Non-ferrous metals are separated from the ash and dirt through what looks like a large strainer before being sent through on another conveyor belt and put through what is called a ballistic separator, Trinka said.

The system uses Eddy Current Separators to remove non-ferrous metal from the ash. Basically, Trinka said the system makes non-ferrous metals magnetic so they can be pulled out more easily. These metals, which often include jewelry and coins, are also put in shipping containers and sent off for recycling.

"By doing this, we will gain about 10 percent more space, which will increase the life expectancy of the ash landfill," said Vrchota of the process, which is relatively new to the U.S.

Trinka said it took all of last winter to set up the equipment and that operations began around the first of May. The unit can run about 42 tons of ash per hour. Trinka said the Lab USA contract with Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management is for five years.

The landfill is an ash monofill, Vrchota said, in that it can only accept garbage that has been burned and processed through the combustor at Pope/Douglas and not just raw garbage. The ash landfill acts like a large bathtub as the whole thing is lined with a special type of liner system. Water that collects at the bottom of the landfill is then recycled at the waste-to-energy facility or sent to a wastewater treatment plant.

A couple loads of water get pumped out each week and sent to the wastewater treatment plant in Fergus Falls, Vrchota said. He also said that between five and six trucks filled with ash are dumped at the landfill per day and that the landfill has about 36 years worth of storage.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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