A proposed Ramsey County environmental service center promises to be a one-stop shop for offloading everything from old paint and hazardous household waste to outdated electronics.
The facility, which will be built on county-owned land in Roseville, could include public meeting space for fix-it clinics and educational seminars, a reuse room where people can pick up paint and building supplies, and a community garden. The center is expected to cost $29 million to build, according to county officials.
The public is clamoring for a simple and responsible way to get rid of increasingly complex waste, county leaders say. Improving recycling services is also a critical component of the Ramsey County's mission to bolster environmental justice — the idea that all people have the right to live in a clean, healthy environment protected from pollution.
"Our goals are to protect and improve the health of people in Ramsey County and the environment," said Sara Hollie, director of St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health.
The new service center will span about 5 acres and be built on an 18-acre site owned by the county at 1700 Kent St. in Roseville, a site chosen for its central location.
The county's solid waste fund will help cover building costs. The fund is generated by the county's environmental charge, which includes trash-hauling service fees.
The project has entered the design phase, with the county issuing a request for proposals last summer. County leaders are evaluating submissions and hope to open the center by the end of 2025.
At recent public meetings, community members have expressed confusion and frustration about the county's recycling and drop-off services, which involve multiple locations, Hollie said.
"We want this space to be community-friendly," she said. "We want to enhance these services for our residents."
Members of the public have also been emphatic that they want a gathering space to learn more about recycling and everyday environmentalism and to host fix-it clinics, Hollie said.
The county recently relaunched the popular clinics after a two-year break because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents can bring small households items, such as lamps, toasters and clothing, to be fixed by a team of volunteers.
Ramsey County retiree Rod Basham has offered his repair services at the clinics for five years and said the events typically attract overflow crowds. At a clinic this month, Basham said, he persuaded his grandson Caleb Ihla to join him.
"He replaced a screen on a laptop for a woman, and she was just tickled," Basham said.
People increasingly want to keep items out of the landfills, he said, so he supports the county's efforts to improve recycling and repair options.
The environmental service center is the latest in a slew of recycling service expansions that Ramsey County has implemented in recent years.
Last summer, the county began partnering with Repowered, formerly Tech Dump, to offer free residential recycling of televisions, computers and related devices such as VCRs, DVD players, keyboards and printers. Through that partnership, Ramsey County residents can bring unwanted electronics to Repowered's St. Paul location.
In the spring of 2021, Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy started construction on a more than $40 million expansion at its Newport facility to make room for curbside food scrap recycling for all households in the two east metro counties.
The expanded facility will house high-tech robotics that will sift out the biodegradable bags residents use to dispose of food scraps in their trash bins.
"We want it to be as easy as possible for Ramsey County residents to reuse and recycle," said County Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire.
"Putting community feedback at the heart of the design process will help us build an environmental service center that encourages recycling, fixing and reusing items, and learning more about caring for our environment. We are excited for this opportunity."