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Waste Not
River Bend's Recycling Unit for the Students of Rice County

Waste Education Units

Waste Education Overview   |   Waste Recycling   |   Waste Reduction

Last updated January 27, 2015

Teacher's Box

When preparing to talk about recycling, or when preparing for a visit from the River Bend staff, you will want to cover some different ideas and concepts with students.

  • We live in a society that uses a tremendous amount of natural resources, and up until the last few years, we extracted those resources from the earth without much worry. While we were pulling out these vanishing resources, we were also filling in a good portion of the earth with our trash. By putting the waste in the ground, we lived as if it was gone, with no worry for us in the future. But just as the earth's resources are limited, so is space for our waste. RECYCLING is the process we use to divert waste away from the landfill and reuse items that would have used other natural resources.
  • We recycle in Rice County because the current landfill is reaching capacity, and recycling allows that site to stay open longer since there is less waste flowing into it. All of the people living in Rice County produce over 150 tons of waste in one day. Think about how much space that takes up in one landfill.
  • Recycling has many benefits including reduced pollution and increased health. Also, recycling lessens the amount of waste that actually goes into the landfill. No one wants to have the next landfill in their own backyard. In fact, all of Rice County is our own backyard!

Depending on student interest, some topics that go along with recycling are those relating to sustainability, solid waste management, composting, and school-wide waste recycling. For more information on waste recycling in Rice County, contact River Bend Nature Center.

NEW! Recycling review fun sheet - PDF

Recycling Symbol

What is in our garbage?

Garbage Can Our garbage is what we throw away, or what we waste every day. Lots of people put different things into the garbage, or waste different things every day. People throw away more paper than anything else, but people throw away plastic, cans and glass every day too. Does all of that waste belong in the trash?

Where does our waste go?

When we throw our waste away, where does it go? Does the waste disappear? NO! Waste has to go somewhere, and we aren't the only people that throw things away. People all over the county throw things away and we have to put that waste somewhere. What happens in Rice County is that the waste is buried in the ground. This puts it out of sight and a lot of people forget about it. Burying the waste does not take care of it, though. Just because that waste is buried, does it mean that it is gone forever? NO! It takes a VERY long time for waste to go away when it is buried. One of the best things people can do to help with getting rid of and reducing the amount of waste is to RECYCLE.


Recycling: The cycle or process of making something brand new out of used, broken, or worn out materials to divert waste away from the landfill.

Landfill: A hole in the ground used to store garbage indefinitely.

What waste is accepted in the Rice County Landfill?

  • Household garbage
  • Furniture
  • Empty, dried paint cans
  • Asbestos (24-hour notice required)
  • New but broken construction material
  • Railroad ties
  • Carpets and backing

What waste is not accepted in the Rice County Landfill?

  • Recyclables
  • Yard Waste
  • Tires
  • Ashes in barrels
  • Paints or other hazardous waste
  • Pallets
  • Appliances
Rice County Landfill
Rice County Landfill in Dundas
Trash Compacter
Waste compactor at Rice County Landfill

How do we recycle in Rice County?

In Rice County we have a single-sort recycling system. This means all recyclable material can be placed in the same container (blue bins) on the curb for pickup. Single-sort recycling is also called commingled recycling. For the system to work well, items should be loosely placed in the bins and not crammed together in separate bags. This new system was put in place in 2008. Before 2008, individual households and businesses sorted their own recyclable materials and placed them in separate bins and bags before placing them on the curb for pickup. Garbage removal companies are under contract with Rice County to provide recycling pickup services for individual households, usually every other week.

To make the process simpler and to make space for more materials, Rice County purchased large, 65-gallon blue bins for everyone to hold their recyclables. The bins have large wheels and can be easily rolled to the curb on pickup days.

What can we recycle in the blue bins in Rice County?

The rules for what can be recycled and what cannot be recycled change depending on which county you reside in Minnesota. Rice County approves which items can be recycled and placed in the blue bins for pickup based on their marketability. The following list of materials are approved recyclable materials in Rice County.


  • Aluminum: pop (soda), energy drink, & juice cans; plates; pie tins; foil (not contaminated with food)
  • Steel or tin: soup and coffee cans, cans from canned vegetables & meats
Steel Cans
Steel or tin cans
Aluminum Can
Aluminum can
Cans Being Recycled
Aluminum cans being recycled
Blue Bin
Individual blue recycling bin

Stacks of Blue Bins
Stacks of bins at Dundas Center


In Rice County plastic bottles with a neck (no margarine-type tubs) and with a #1 or #2 inside the recycling symbol on the bottom of the container can be recycled in the blue bins. Acceptable items include plastic pop bottles, water bottles, milk jugs, and detergent bottles. No plastic bags or meat or dairy plastic. Although some plastic bags are #1 or #2 plastics they cannot be recycled in Rice County. Bags are sorted out because they are often contaminated and it's too costly and impractical for recycling companies to empty and clean them.

The plastics recycling guidelines will be changing effective January 1, 2012. Click here for the new guidelines.

Plastic Milk Jugs
Plastic milk and juice containers
Plastic Pop Bottles
Various recyclable plastic bottles
Plastic Bottle and Non-Recyclable Plastic Tub
Plastic bottle on the right can be recycled
Tub on the left cannot, it has no neck
Bales of Plastic Bottles
Bales of plastic bottles

Fiber Waste

Paper, cardboard, and food boxes (uncoated) are called "fiber waste" once they are thrown out. This is because they are made from the fibers of trees. You can see the fibers if you tear a piece of paper and look at the torn edge. The fibers look like delicate hairs or strings. Examples of fiber waste that can be recycled in the blue bins are:

  • Newspaper
  • Phone books
  • Office paper
  • Junk mail
  • Magazines and catalogs
  • Cardboard (flattened)
  • Food boxes (also known as boxboard) including items like cereal, pop, food, and other boxes
  • No pizza boxes, wax-coated boxboard, or other items contaminated with food

Recycling Paper
Recycling paper
Bales of Cardboard
Bales of recycled fiber


Most glass jars and bottles from products found at the grocery store can be recycled. However, glass from broken windows, light bulbs, mirrors, or dishwear cannot be recycled and must be thrown out. Remove lids and wash out recyclable glass containers before putting them in the blue bin. Glass bottles and jars of any color can be recycled.

Glass Containers
Recyclable glass containers
Pile of Broken Recyclable Glass
Pile of broken recyclable glass

What happens to recycled materials?

Recycled materials go on a journey as they travel from the blue bin to the place where they are used to make a new product. The stops on this journey can be described in five steps:

Blue Bin 1. Blue Bin - Rice County contracts with your garbage hauler to pick up recyclable materials from the blue bins on a regular schedule - usually every two weeks on the same day trash is collected. Contact your trash hauler for a precise recycling schedule.
Collect 2. Collect - After pickup from the blue bins, the trucks take all our recycled materials to be collected at the Solid Waste Facility in Dundas.
Transport 3. Transport - The recycled materials are then reloaded onto a larger truck which transports them to the Allied Waste and Recycling Center in Minneapolis.
4. Sort - At Allied Waste recyclables are decontaminated and sorted into piles. A series of conveyor belts and chutes move the unsorted materials through different machines which mechanically sort each material. Paper, cardboard, green glass, clear glass, brown glass, aluminum, steel, and several different kinds of plastic all end up in separate piles. Workers inside the center help the process along at different points. They wear protective clothing, ear plugs, and helmets because the materials often have sharp edges and are moving by quickly on noisy equipment.
Unsorted materials
Unsorted load
Paper sorting
Fiber waste, especially paper, is sorted first with spinning axles that toss paper over a barrier, leaving heavier materials behind.
Sorting Glass
Piles of glass sorted by color and a worker in protective gear.
Sorted Plastic Bottles
A pile of sorted #2 plastic bottles. Other types of plastic are sorted separately.
Plastic bales 5. Bale - All recyclable materials (except glass) are packaged into heavy, compact bales for transport to the next step on their journey. Bales are made because they pack easily into neat stacks and save space by pressing more materials into less space. Various companies buy bales of recycled material from Allied Waste to make new products. In some cases, the old materials are used to make the same product. In other cases, different products are made. For example, bales of office paper may be made into newsprint, while bales of aluminum cans are often melted down to make new aluminum cans.

What else can we recycle but not in the blue bins?

Other items can be brought to the Rice County Solid Waste Facility in Dundas to be recycled, such as clean, used clothing, electronics, paint, household cleaners, motor oil and more. When improperly disposed, some of these items like cleaners and motor oil are hazardous materials that are potentially harmful to humans, other animals, and the environment. These items cannot be placed in the blue bins! To see the most up-to-date list of what can be brought in to be recycled and hours of operations, click the link below to the Rice County Web site. There are many resources for information here. Under the Resources section you can click the link to Recycling and Disposal Guide.

Rice County Solid Waste

Paints can be recycled and even exchanged. Rice County residents can obtain open paint in a variety of colors and types at the Dundas center.
cleaning products
Cleaning products can be recycled and even exchanged. Rice County residents can obtain cleaning products at the Dundas center.
Clothes can be brought in for recycling.

New category for recycling: What happens to E-Waste?

E-waste, or electronic waste, is comprised of the products we use that contain electronic parts. Examples are computers, televisions, video game players, cell phones and digital projecting equipment. All these products eventually stop working and have to be thrown out or recycled. If you look inside an electronic product like a computer, you will see how complex it is. Each is made from many different materials: various metals, plastics, rubber, and more. Some of these materials, especially the metals (gold, copper, lead and lithium) are in limited supply on our planet. To throw them away means to lose precious resources forever. Also, some of these same metals and materials are hazardous to throw away.

All electronics with a Cathode Ray Tube (such as TVs and computer monitors) are banned from disposal as garbage in Minnesota. This means that all CRT-containing devices must be recycled by businesses and households alike. These items may be taken to the Rice County Recycling Center for disposal. The challenge for Rice County (and for us!) is to find people and companies who can properly recycle the products we are throwing out and getting those items to them.

What is the value of Recycling?

We sometimes like to think of the process of recycling as a circle or a loop. This means that materials get re-made into the same product to be used again and again. There is an expression people use to refer to this process: “closing the loop”. But not all recycled materials get re-made into the same product they were originally. For example, recycled office paper often becomes material for making new grocery bags. Recycled plastic bottles often become material for new carpets or clothing. In this case, the journey is shaped like a downward spiral because eventually a product is made that cannot be recycled and the process is over.

In other words, for various reasons some materials cannot be recycled more than a few times, or even just once. For example, fibers in paper and cardboard break down after being recycled repeatedly. Some plastics that contain food and water are considered un-safe to recycle for the same use and get recycled into other products like clothing and carpets instead.

Aluminum and steel cans and glass bottles are examples of materials that can be recycled in a process that is like a circle or loop. These items often become the source materials used to re-make the same kinds of cans and bottles they were used for originally.

Click here for a PDF of this Recycling Loop.


Closing the Loop

Recycling is a great idea and it helps to keep things out of the landfill, but it only helps if you buy things that are made out of what you recycle. When you go to the store, look to see if what you are buying is made from something recycled.

Ways to close the loop:

  • Clothing made from recycled plastic bottles.
  • You could make mittens from old sweatshirts.
  • You could buy recycled school paper.
  • There are many products made from recycled materials, just be sure to read the labels.

Companies that help you close the loop by making products from recycled materials:

Other recycling links:

Make your own paper!


  • Blender
  • Sink or water-tight tub
  • Rectangular piece of wire screen
  • Sheet of wax paper
  • Used paper torn into 1-inch squares


  1. Soak paper in warm water for one hour.
  2. Place a handful of paper scraps into blender. Add water to cover and blend until the mixture becomes a pulp. Continue to add water and blend until you see no bits of paper.
  3. Pour pulp into sink/tub, add more water, stir well. Add glitter, dried flowers, etc. (optional)
  4. Quickly raise screen (with pulp) out of tub and let drain. Place wax paper on top of the paper pulp and place it between a towel. Gently push on the towel to squeeze out excess water. Open towel and flip screen over and onto wax paper.
  5. Gently remove screen and leave paper pulp to dry.
  6. Your new paper will be ready to use in just a few days!
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