Imagine…your golf ball lands sparkly, warm, welcoming bed of fine-grained multi-colored sediment next to the golf green. How could you cuss and swear about such a sand trap predicament on your golf outing? 

A couple of recycling entrepreneurs aim to process recycled glass into a colorful silt-like product—to line golf greens. Imagine the same product, all the sharp edges smoothed and altered like sand, to replace eroded waterfront beaches. 

Let’s hope the product is developed soon, because the Otter Tail County Solid Waste Department has about 100 tons of stockpiled glass it’s trying to get rid of.

Plastics are being shipped by the bale to the Twin Cities, most of which are processed into decking material. Much of Otter Tail’s paper is processed into an insulation product. There’s usually a market for aluminum. 

Though market economics help defray the expense of solid waste management, it remains, for the most part, a taxpayer-subsidized process. 

Glass is another story. There are uses, including road-building material. But glass is heavier; more difficult to ship and transport cost-effectively; and generally poses a different set of logistics. 

That’s why some counties have temporarily halted glass pick-ups. And that’s why Otter Tail has stockpiled more than two years worth of glass. “We’re researching and trying to find a market for the glass,” said Otter Tail recycling director Brooks Anderson. 

Recycling and re-use was just one of a broad number of topics discussed when the Otter Tail County Board came to Pelican Rapids Sept. 19. They talked roads, taxes, housing, workforce, tillable farm land, and marijuana. We plan to look at some of those topics in upcoming editions of the Press. 

But for now, let’s look at solid waste. 

The county just bought 14 acres of land from the city of Pelican Rapids. The parcel surrounds the facility west of town, where you bring your discarded staff, the so-called “transfer station.” 

The county will invest at least $1 million in the site. Services will expand in coming years, including the prospect of year-round household hazardous waste collection; and expanded hours.

Food waste is the next big thing. And Otter Tail County is on course. 

Food waste is being picked upon a route that includes Perham, Henning, Parkers Prairie, Battle Lake, and Fergus Falls—mainly schools and institutions. Not Pelican Rapids—yet. 

Altogether, the program collects more than 5,000 pounds of food waste each week and delivers it to the Glacial Ridge Compost Facility in Douglas County. 

The goal is to keep as much compostable organic matter as possible out of the waste stream. 

As county board commissioner Wayne Johnson explained, “it’s expensive to keep things out of the landfill,” but the front-end costs of recycling are far less than the long-term costs of landfilling. 

Another Otter Tail and multi-county initiative is the Perham-headquartered incinerator. There, 52,000 tons of waste is burned annually, noted Cedar Walters, the marketing person for the county solid waste department, who describes herself as a “cheerleader” for recycling. 

The steam, generated by the incineration process, is captured and sold as an energy source to industrial concerns in Perham—including Bongaard’s Creamery and KLN, the makers of candies, snacks, and Tuffy’s pet foods. The steam is a source of revenue for the solid waste department.

We’re still a distance from solid waste management being “cost neutral” to taxpayers—but are headed in the right direction. 

Now, if we could unload that heap of accumulated glass. 

If you know a guy who needs 100 tons of beer and wine bottles, call the county.