Scrap paper and cardboard recycling at the curb

wm-sshot multi_sort_image

I got a tip via a friend of my wife’s that Waste Management’s web site for Northfield shows that their multi-sort recycling at the curb (click right image to enlarge) now includes all kinds of paper products, not just newspapers. ‘Twas news to me.

So this means you no longer have to bring cardboard and miscellaneous scrap paper (“junk mail paper, egg cartons, cereal/cracker/shoe boxes, coupons, wrapping paper, greeting cards”) to the big bins at Econofoods or Cub Foods. Just put it in a paper bag and put it in the bin. Larger cardboard can be flattened and placed under the bin.

And their Northfield drop-off location handles eCycling (electronic waste), too.

1510 South Highway 3
Northfield, MN 55057
Monday – Friday 8 am – 5 pm

Update, 5 pm: Evidently there is NOT curbside recycling for cardboard. The WM website is in error. See the comment thread.


  1. Holly Cairns said:

    I wonder how much the recycling center throws away these days, if anything. I remember being shocked by how many items actually made it to the trash rather than being recycled (mid 90’s).

    February 1, 2008
  2. Problem is: how do you fit everything in the bin?

    February 1, 2008
  3. Arlen Malecha said:

    I think it is awesome that we can do more curbside recycling as well as less sorting. I hope this does not end the ‘Green Team’ program that Waste Management does at Econo Foods and Cub. This is a great program that helps raise funds for alot of youth groups in Northfield.

    February 1, 2008
  4. Wow. This is a big deal! I can probably free up ten square feet of my garage by breaking down some boxes!

    February 1, 2008
  5. I didn’t know we had a new protocol for curbside; thanks for posting this. It looks as if some things should be bagged (glass and scrap paper) but other items can just go loose into the bins. It also appears that all paper should go in one bin and all other stuff in another, if you’re putting items loose into the bins. Totally news to me! I did see that a new yellow recycling bin appeared a few months ago, but I didn’t know there was a new procedure. I see from the little illustration on the Waste Management site that paper egg cartons can be recycled; I’d never thought of that, oddly enough. (They can also be reused if you bring them to the co-op).

    February 1, 2008
  6. So does everyone get two recycling bins now? I’m confused. Waste Management, take me away…

    February 1, 2008
  7. Patty Ciernia said:

    I just called waste management and it’s news to them. Did anyone actually speak to Northfield’s Waste Management?

    February 1, 2008
  8. John S. Thomas said:

    The city would not change its contract with Waste Management without some sort of public announcement, so I find all of this hearsay.

    The bins at Econo and Cub provide different groups a method of financial support, and should continue to be patronized as much as possible.

    My guess is, this is a corporate template on their web, and does not reflect accurate information. Also, I am fairly confident that you still need to take electronic recycling to the County site on a certain day, when the moon is in the third phase, and the supervisor is wearing a certain color shirt, and pay some variable fee.

    I called in December about dropping off a monitor, and was told where I needed to go. I am quite sure it is not the WM office on Hwy 3.

    I would love to see this service curbside however…

    February 1, 2008
  9. Griff Wigley said:

    Patty, I didn’t call before I blogged this but I just called now and talked to a woman named Jen in Waste Management’s regional office in Blaine. Her database showed that Northfield is NOT listed for scrap paper and cardboard recycling at the curb but when I walked her through the web site to where it says it DOES, she said that that must mean it DOES and that we should go ahead. I urged her to double check with a supervisor and call me back.

    So in the meantime, let’s try it. I won’t have a chance till next Wed.

    February 1, 2008
  10. Ah, I found the “news” entirely credible because so much paper recycling goes into the youth organization bins at the supermarkets, bypassing any financial benefit to the city or county. I may not understand the economics of this very well, but I know that some years ago one county official privately expressed concern about the impact to the county recycling revenues when people started bypassing the paper collection bins at the south Hwy 3 facility and using the more convenient youth donation bins instead. My thought at the time was, if they want all that cardboard and mixed paper, they need to pick it up or make it more convenient for people to drop it off!

    February 1, 2008
  11. Patrick Enders said:

    If anything has changed, I don’t think that they’ve told the drivers on my WM route. My neighbor’s scrap paper/cardboard he had placed in his recycling bin was left at the curb this week, along with a copy of the same old ‘what goes where’ flier I currently have posted on my fridge.

    February 1, 2008
  12. Griff Wigley said:

    I called the City of Northfield Maintenance Facility at 1710 Riverview Drive because they’re listed on the city’s web site for yard waste where it references Waste Management. “We honestly don’t know” was their anwser.

    February 1, 2008
  13. Patty Ciernia said:

    Well,… it would be a great service to have! I’m going to dig a little deaper too. But my initial call was placed through the website you posted. Which is Southern Minnesota WM. So I’ll look for your news from the city on Monday. Thanks!

    February 1, 2008
  14. Griff Wigley said:

    Mary at the Finance Dept called me back and gave me the direct numbers for Stephanie at the Northfield office and Randy in the regional office. Stay tuned!

    February 1, 2008
  15. Griff Wigley said:

    I talked to Stephanie at the Nfld WM office. She said the curbside sorting is done at the Rice County Recycling Center/Landfill and, unlike in the Twin Cities, they do NOT have the ability to sort for cardboard. She wasn’t sure about scrap paper, however.

    I’ve left a voicemail for Randy, the regional WM contact.

    I’ve edited the blog post at the top.

    February 1, 2008
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    Randy Bongard, Waste Management’s regional manager for Northfield, called me back and confirmed that A) cardboard is not yet picked up at the curb; and B) scrap paper IS. He apologized for the web site error and will have it fixed Monday.

    February 2, 2008
  17. Griff Wigley said:

    WM’s Randy Bongard told me that a decision on Single Stream vs. Dual Stream recycling (evidently we currently have 4 streams: paper, glass, plastic, aluminum) will likely be made at next Tuesday’s Rice County Board of Commissioners meeting. I checked the agenda and shore ’nuff, at 8:50 am, Michael Cook, Director of Solid Waste for Rice County, is addressing these issues:

    • A. Change in Recycling Contracts & Collection
    • B. Hazardous Waste Building Expansion
    • C. Multi County Meeting Invitation
    • D. Discussion of Wind Power

    Waste Management has a web page on Single Stream recycling:

    ­ which allows customers to commingle recyclable paper and mixed containers in one bin for collection. The convenience of Single-stream recycling greatly increases participation and household recovery (usually measured in pounds per household), resulting in the recovery of up to 30 percent more recyclable materials and in one extreme case up to 42%.

    Single-stream also allows for efficient fleet utililization and route optimization by cutting down on specialized recycling collection vehicles and allowing greater material compaction. Over time, this reduces the energy required during the collection of the material through greater payloads and a “one route, one truck” collection methodology.

    We use state-of-the-art equipment to sort and process recyclable paper, glass, plastics, metals and electronics. We have introduced innovative ideas, leading-edge technology and advanced systems to streamline everything from the collection of recyclable materials to processing and marketing them.

    Dual stream (described here on the site) means that:

    Residents are asked to sort containers in one curbside bin and papers (newspaper, magazines, direct mail, etc.) in another. Usually the two bins are color-coded (i.e. blue for paper, green for containers, etc.) Both bins are set out on the curb on pick-up day.

    Hmm. I wonder if Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) is going to be considered? Seems like a good idea to me:

    Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) trash collection programs, when combined with curbside recycling programs, can be highly effective in increasing participation, particularly when curbside is offered free and effectively communicated to residents. As part of PAYT, residents often pay a fee per bag of trash they set out on the curb. In turn, curbside is offered at no cost or at a reduced cost, to incentives less trash and more recycling.

    February 2, 2008
  18. Griff Wigley said:

    Hey! Our Northfield City Council endorsed ‘Single Sort Recycling’ in Nov. See the Council minutes for 11/19/07:

    Resolution 2007-124: Single Sort Recycling

    Public Services Director Walinski introduced this item and answered questions posed by Council. Randy Bongard and Dan Goodleson of Waste Management answered questions posed by Council.


    February 2, 2008
  19. Griff Wigley said:

    Does anyone have details about WM’s Youth Recycling Green Team program? What do the youth groups actually do re: the recycling of cardboard & mixed paper?

    February 2, 2008
  20. Patty Ciernia said:

    Excellent. Thanks for all the info.

    February 2, 2008
  21. Patty Ciernia said:

    The non-profit group reiceives a dollar amount per pound collected in one of the two designated grocery store big bins. Each non-profit is given a month and then it’s weighed. They often share with one other non-profit. A sign is placed on the bin each month of the group receiving the donation. -This is the way it worked when I was involved with the Girl Scouts a couple years ago and I just assume it’s still the same.

    February 2, 2008
  22. Griff Wigley said:

    Patty, if I understand you correctly, the youth groups are just beneficiaries…. the kids don’t actually do anything?

    February 2, 2008
  23. Patty Ciernia said:


    February 2, 2008
  24. John S. Thomas said:

    I beg to differ on #23, and #24…

    It depends on the group that sponsors the box. I know for a fact that there are some groups that are more aggressive, and sponsor recycling drives. Some of the church youth groups actually have run very effective campaigns.

    They also monitor the boxes and contact WM for pickup, check on the site and clean up the messes left by others.

    To say that the youth groups don’t do anything, and just get a check is unfair and is a great disservice to them and the program as a whole.

    Come on Griff, you can do better…

    February 2, 2008
  25. Anne Bretts said:

    We built a deck last summer (OK, son built the deck) and I have a couple of Rubbermaid tubs of wood scraps. How do I get rid of them?

    February 2, 2008
  26. Anne,
    I’m pretty sure you can bring lumber scraps to the recycling center itself. I would call them to make sure, though: 507-332-6833.

    February 2, 2008
  27. John S. Thomas said:

    Usually when you build a deck, there is a lot of pressure treated wood in the foundation, unless you have invested in Cedar…

    If it is pressure treated wood, you need to be aware that it is FULL of chemicals, and should not even be dealt with bare hands, much less burned, buried, or thrown in a landfill.

    If the wood scraps are not pressure treated, you could probably get rid of them by listing them on Northfield Freecycle. This group is part of The Freecycle Network, a completely volunteer, nonprofit organization and a movement of people interested in keeping good stuff useful, wanted, and out of landfills. (

    Anne, if it is NOT pressure treated wood, I would be interested, as I have an outside firepit, and woodscraps make great starter.

    Have a great day.


    February 2, 2008
  28. Gabriel Rholl said:

    I see that some people have asked questions about e-waste. The drop-off location *is* the Northfield location back behind the Cenex gas station, beside the big co-op grain storage units on HWY 3. There are several large cardboard boxes that hold e-waste to be recycled back there. Just go inside to the main desk to pay and ask them where to put the stuff. I do this quite a bit as a student worker in St. Olaf’s computer department.

    February 2, 2008
  29. Griff Wigley said:

    John, I don’t like you lecturing me (#25) to “do better.” Just argue and leave it at that.

    I think my question about whether the youth groups are just beneficiaries is legit. The general public brings the paper to the big recycling bins and WM hauls it away. It’s not obvious to me what the kids do.

    • There’s nothing on the City of Northfield’s recycling site nor WM’s Northfield site nor Rice County’s landfill site that explains the Youth Recycling Green Team program or shows the youth doing anything.
    • The media coverage of this program is more than a little murky when it comes to describing what the youth do. “The Teams learn about recycling, share that knowledge with others and earn money for their respective organizations.”­ says this press release.
    • Open Door Nursery School’s web site says “children learned about the importance of recycling and caring for the environment. Along with the support of their families and the Northfield community, the children at ODNS recycled more than 80 tons and as a result, the school received a check for $1,369.20.”
    • This Northfield News article from March 2005 says “Members of both organizations worked together to monitor the recycling collection boxes at Cub Foods and Econofoods Grocery Stores in Northfield. During November, December, and January, the two youth organizations conducted recycling educational activities to promote the project and helped to recycle 101.2 tons of cardboard and mixed paper.”
    •  This Northfield News article from Feb. 2005 says “Hats off to four Dundas youth organizations that have helped to recycle 211,520 pounds of cardboard and mixed paper in the youth recycling collection box during the past two years… Each Green Team is responsible for monitoring the recycling collection box, located in the parking lot across from City Hall, and educating the community about the convenient drop-off box to recycle cardboard and mixed paper.”
    • In a blog post in Aug. 2006, Anne Bretts wrote “Together the two teams educated residents, monitored the recycling boxes and recycled 151.6 tons of cardboard and mixed paper at the two recycling drop-off locations in Northfield.”

    There’s nothing specific about what ‘educating the residents’ actually means. Did the kids go door to door? Did they give a powerpoint presentation at church? Did they create a blog or web site or photo album?

    There’s nothing specific about what ‘monitoring the boxes’ actually means. In the years I’ve been hauling stuff to these sites, I’ve never seen a youth cleaning up. I’ve never them helping people unload their vehicles. MANY times I’ve seen big messes. MANY times I’ve driven away frustrated that the boxes were completely stuffed and I couldn’t drop off my paper.

    I don’t object to the youth groups receiving money, but if they don’t do anything, it seems more than a little disengenous for groups/media coverage to be trumpeting that “XYZ youth group recycled X tons of paper.”  The credit should go to the citizens who recycle the stuff and to WM for orchestrating the whole thing and donating the money.

    February 3, 2008
  30. John Thomas says that The Freecycle Network is entirely a volunteer organisation. Strictly this is not correct since Deron Beal at least receives a salary.

    February 3, 2008
  31. kiffi summa said:

    Anyone who has attended city council meetings, or watched them on NTV, has witnessed the often, usually, heavy involvement by the youth groups that sign up as sponsors.
    The PR person from WM comes to the council to award the check, congratulate the sponsoring youth group, and usually gives quite an explanation of their efforts, before giving them their check. The sponsoring group usually has quite a bit of maintenance to do at the site, cleaning up around the containers, often having to crawl inside to move cardboard back from the doors, so that more can be added, and not just left on the ground outside.
    From hearing these presentations over the last 2/3 years, it would seem that most, if not all, of these youth groups take the job very seriously and are well deserving of the monetary award. Some groups have gone as far as to have educational programs in their schools, or created flyers for adults. Many have spoken quite ardently about their surprise at how messy adults can be when leaving their cardboard at the site.
    If I’m not mistaken, NF won the nationwide award for the highest collection of a city of its size; WM should be congratulated for initiating the program, and the youth sponsors for their facilitation of that program.

    February 3, 2008
  32. John S. Thomas said:

    Thank you Kiffi… and my apologies to Griff.

    Griff, I had the perception that you knew this, as I thought I remembered you in the audience, and taking pictures the last time the PR person from WM was there. I may have a false perception. I know KIffi was there… maybe I wiffed it…

    A lot of these groups do not have a web presence or a PR person, but work very hard to raise funds, and take the WM program very seriously.

    To answer Andy’s post, I took that sentence off of the Freecycle website. I did not know about Deron Beal. I stand corrected, and thank you. I think Freecycle is pretty handy, and have used it frequently, especially when closing out the gardens last year. Much of the materials I had left over were freecycled.

    I would really like to see the City handle its public relations better, but that is a completely different topic.

    I stand corrected.

    February 3, 2008
  33. Griff Wigley said:

    I stopped by the paper recycling bins in the Cub Foods parking lot this morning. Here are 3 photos of the mess surrounding the bins. I talked to a local vet who was there emptying his vehicle and he, too, expressed frustration at having to drive away many times because the bins were full.

    IMG_0014 IMG_0016 IMG_0019

    Kiffi, I’m not saying that youth groups never do anything. I’m saying that it’s not apparent what’s done, that often times it’s not done well, and that it’s false PR to say that a group recycled X tons. If the youth group sponsorship portion of the recycling program stopped today, it’s pretty clear to me that close to the same # of tons would be recycled each month.

    February 3, 2008
  34. John S. Thomas said:

    Lets think about this for a second…

    17,000 people in Northfield. (Give or take)

    6 Bins, 3 at Econo, 3 at Cub… and WM does not work weekends.

    It sounds like the bins are always going to be full on Sunday.

    It sounds like rather than having LESS recycling on weekends, we need to have MORE bins, or MORE pickups.

    When the Vanpool drives by Econo on Monday mornings, WM is out very early picking up the bins. I think everyone just holds their recyclables until the weekend, then drops them off. It is a simple problem of peak demand, and not enough supply of empty bins.

    WM should consider an additional pickup on Saturday afternoon? Residents should also try to drop off their materials during the week, and not let them accumulate until the weekend.

    Consumers should also try to go one better, and purchase items that have less and less packaging. Consumers should use recyclable containers, and purchase items in bulk whenever possible.

    I am all for doing this curbside. It would be very nice.

    February 3, 2008
  35. Robbie Wigley said:

    I like the idea of the youth organizations benefiting from the recycling. But I do have to comment that I take my paper to the bins during the week and yes they are usually not as full, but the mess is still there. I have never been to the containers and seen the area clean. On several occasions I have gathered up flying paper and that hasn’t made it into the bin.

    I think it would be a strategic move if the youth organizations developed a calendar of supervision with a team assigned to each day or so to make sure the areas are clean and kept up. I also do not think it is wise to have the kids climbing into the dumpsters to disperse the stuff. There are enough openings that this can be done by hand by the adults or taller kids. If the areas around the dump sites are a mess… it reflects on the organization being sponsored for the month.

    February 3, 2008
  36. John S. Thomas said:

    It just seems like curbside would be so much more efficient, and cleaner.

    February 3, 2008
  37. John George said:

    John T.- I’m not sure curb side pick up for cardboard would be cost effective for WM or the city. I can just imagine a truck or two the size of those bins, w/ one or two men each, driving all around Northfield to collect what is dropped off at the two sites now. Seems it would be pretty costly and time consuming. Also, I’m not sure the city or WM could use this as a fund raiser for these service and youth groups if this extra cost was incured.

    As far as picking up stuff around the bins, I’ve often wondered why people drive off and leave a mess there, any way. Is it just lazyness? Maybe it was just my upbringing, but my folks taught me to always clean up after myself. I have picked up things around these bins many times myself. Keeping the town clean is a group effort, in my opinion. We shouldn’t have the attitude that someone else will do it if we don’t.

    February 3, 2008
  38. Griff Wigley said:

    Here are 3 photos I took this afternoon of the recycling bins at Econofoods.

    IMG_0059 IMG_0060 IMG_0062

    February 3, 2008
  39. John George said:

    Griff- I guess that’s just evidence that not everyone thinks about the consequences of their actions. Also, look at all the thimgs left in plastic garbage bags. Why try to recycle materials in bag that is not recycleable with its contents? The sign is pretty clear to me- “CARDBOARD AND MIXED PAPER ONLY.” Duh!

    February 3, 2008
  40. Michelle Millenacker said:

    Just an FYI that Dundas also has Waste Management bins for cardboard/paper recycling located at Firehouse Liquor, (south end of the parking lot). Profit from WM bins are designated to Dundas area youth organizations.

    February 4, 2008
  41. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Michelle. I stopped by yesterday. It’s pretty clean.

    Good news: the area around the bins at Cub have been cleaned up. Was that St. Dominic’s youth? Alas, the bins at Econo are still a mess. Project Friendship is the designated youth group for those, according to the sign on the bins.

    February 7, 2008
  42. Griff Wigley said:

    Waste Management took my grocery bag full of scrap paper yesterday. And they issued us two new green recycling bins.

    February 7, 2008
  43. You all heard it here first: Waste Management likes him, I guess; so bring your scrap paper to Griff’s place for recycling.

    February 7, 2008
  44. Griff Wigley said:

    There’s a letter to the editor in today’s paper titled Rice County may change recycling, by Kevin Nordgren.

    Our county commisioners are considering a proposal to allow recyclables to be put at the curb, lumped together. They would then be picked up by a garbage truck, dumped on the floor of the recycling center, and shipped out in bulk, unprocessed, to a non-county facility. Once there, the recyclables would be sorted and the baled product sold. The revenue of the marketable baled product would no longer stay in the county.

    Nordgren details the pros and cons and opposes the change. I can’t find an update on the issue in recent minutes of the Rice County Commissioner meetings, and I don’t remember hearing anything about a public input process on the change. Anyone have details?

    March 19, 2008
  45. Griff Wigley said:

    Looks like Single Stream recycling is on the way for all of Rice County, according to this article in the Nfld News, recycled from the Faribault Daily News: County will move to sorting recyclables itself. Anyone know if Northfield’s ordinance will need to be changed like Faribault’s?

    A Faribault ordinance that limits the size of trash bins to 40 gallons, however, stands in the way of implementation. The Faribault City Council met in committee Tuesday night to recommend the law allow recycling bins as large as 65 gallons but maintained the limit on trash containers. A final ordinance change is subject to a public hearing and Council vote.

    April 2, 2008
  46. Griff Wigley said:

    LWV observer Marcia Walters has this in her report on the last Rice Cty Commissioners’ meeting (Mar 25):

    Solid Waste Department head Michael Cook outlined the changes that will be occurring in the county’s recycling system.  Collection will change from source separated to single stream.  Everyone will get a new recycling container (at this point a 65 gallon wheel-able container) into which will go everything permitted.  The recycling fee will rise from the current $18 per year to $26 to pay for the costs of the recycling containers over a five-year period.  The county will continue to contract with existing haulers so that recycling collection will occur from the same company that hauls the residents’ trash.  However, the recycling pick up will be cut back to every other week.  Part of the reason for this change is that trucks are no longer being built for curbside separation.

    April 9, 2008
  47. Janine Stiles said:

    Lurking Northfield wannabe here again…

    Well I hope you Northfielders figure this out before we move down there. :)Here in the big, bad city of Mpls they pick up paper and cardboard (in addition to the other standard fare). No additional trucks, just the big one with all the compartments that rumbles down our ally biweekly and is driven by a very nice woman by the name of Heather. We would quickly be avalanched by paper at our house if it wasn’t picked up from our house. No wait, it would probably make it out to our cars and then our cars would fill full before we would get around to stopping at whereever it is you all haul your stuff to!!

    I hate to sound non-generous to the youth of Rice County but, in my book curb-side pick up is crucial to keeping this stuff out of the landfills. Keep in mind many won’t make the trip and those that drive away from full bins may not make a second trip – all which leads to very easily recyclable items ending up in the landfills.

    Well, to give Northfield (or is it Rice County?) its props, going single stream would put you ahead of Mpls as we currently have to sort. So now I am confused, are they picking up the paper curbside or not…there seems to be two different experiences here on this blog?

    Thanks for letting a non-local (for now) chime in!

    April 9, 2008
  48. Janine,
    I can say from personal experience that Rice County does (and, as I understand it, will continue to) pick up office paper and newspapers/magazines, but not cardboard.

    I agree with you that making recycling as convenient as possible will increase the percentage of people participating, but having to haul cardboard isn’t too bad: you’re bound to have to go to a grocery store soon enough, anyway.

    I’m surprised to hear that you have to sort in Minneapolis. I have relatives in Richfield, and it’s single-sort there — I would have thought Mpls and the inner-suburbs would be on the same system.

    April 9, 2008

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