Officials from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and leaders from the waste and recycling industry gathered Tuesday in St. Paul to discuss how to prevent more materials from ending up in landfills.
MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine said limiting waste is imperative, because otherwise the state likely will have to clean up additional landfills that could later become a pollution problem.
Stine told those gathered at the forum organized by the Environmental Initiative that the MPCA is overseeing cleanup at 112 old landfills and said that number could grow. Some sites have needed additional remediation after new health guidelines for certain contaminants were adopted.
"We have a legacy of decisions that we are still mitigating: landfill choices that have polluted groundwater. Toxic materials buried underground, all over the state," he said. "We're going to spend your money -- forever -- managing 112 sites."
Recycling rates have been flat in recent years at just below 50 percent. An MPCA study showed state residents are throwing away about 1 million tons of recyclable material each year.
Stine said tougher recycling goals for the Twin Cities metro area and new requirements for commercial recycling passed by the Legislature this year will help cut down on the amount of waste reaching landfills.
State officials say more work is needed to dramatically reduce the amount of waste going into Minnesota's landfills. But more work needs to be done.
"We're not ever going to say, this job is done, because the legacy we inherited is going to be a full-time employer for our agency," Stine said. "I don't want that to be the case going forward."