By Starrla Cray
CARVER COUNTY, MN Boxes, bottles, and broken bulbs are getting a second chance at life, all because of the Adult Training & Habilitation Center (ATHC) Douglas Kugler Eco-Site that opened in Watertown in December.
“I think, so far, it’s going really well,” ATHC executive director Jason Telander said.
Since it opened, the center has processed 65 tons of recycling and collected 72,000 pounds of Christmas lights. The goal is to process three tons of recycling daily.
“Recycling makes sense,” Telander said. “If it’s done right, it’s quite efficient.”
When residents take the time to keep trash separated from recycling, it makes sorting and packaging faster.
“Then, you also end up with fewer contaminants in the recycling, which makes it worth more,” Telander explained.
People who’ve dropped off their recyclables and special waste items (such as appliances and electronics) at the new eco-site have been pleasantly surprised with the service.
“We’ve made it like a 1950s service station,” Telander said. “People don’t even have to get out of their cars.”
Waste not, want not
Many materials can be recycled, such as various types of paper, cans, jars, bottles, and milk cartons.
Other items collected at no charge include automotive and household batteries, inkjet and printer cartridges, clothing, shoes, household items, cooking oil, holiday lights, plastic bags, shrink wrap, residential fluorescent bulbs, scrap metal, used motor oil, filters, antifreeze, central processing units (CPU) and laptops.
For a fee, people can also get rid of unwanted appliances, bicycles, business/residential electronics, lawnmowers/small-engine devices, tires, and business fluorescent bulbs.
“You don’t have to be a resident of Watertown or Carver County to use the facility,” Telander said.
In addition to helping the environment and providing a convenient way to do “spring cleaning,” the recycling center has another benefit giving much-needed jobs to people in the Watertown area who have disabilities.
So far, 13 workers (as well as four staff members) have been hired at the Watertown site.
“We’re still hiring,” Telander said, adding that he plans to have a total of 25 employees.
ATHC also has locations in Winsted and Hutchinson, employing a total of more than 120 individuals.
“We have opportunities for Saturday volunteers,” Telander said. The experience is a good opportunity for scout troops and other organizations to learn how a recycling center operates, and also receive a small stipend from Carver County.
“We just want to make people aware of what we’re doing,” Telander said.
The center is designed with air exchangers in the ceiling and heated floors, giving it a clean and fresh atmosphere.
“We provide a very comfortable and safe working environment,” Telander said.
Employees participate in a variety of tasks, from taking apart recyclable components to loading items onto a conveyor belt.
After the items are on the conveyor, workers sort them into large boxes.
There are different “grades” of materials, and some are worth more than others. Cereal boxes, for example, are in a different category than clean, white office paper.
The sorted items are then crushed into bales and sold to various regional companies.
ATHC makes an effort to keep the recyclables as close to home as possible, in order to avoid unnecessary cost and environmental impact.
The Douglas Kugler Eco-Site was named after Tamie Kugler’s late husband, Douglas.
Kugler had been a science educator at Watertown-Mayer High School for 19 years, and he was deeply committed to preserving the environment.
He and other teachers started an ecology club, which included a recycling program for the school district, as well as the community.
In 2005, Kugler, 53, died from an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
He left behind four grown children Shawn, Nat, Sam, and Cora as well as grandchildren.
The total cost of the facility, including the land, was $1.35 million. ATHC, a private non-profit organization, received a $75,000 combined grant from the City of Watertown and the Carver County Economic Development Authority. The Otto Bremer Foundation also gave a $75,000 grant,
Planning for the facility began in June of 2008, and the groundbreaking ceremony took place in May of 2010.
The eco-site’s address is 676 Industrial Blvd. It is located about a quarter mile west of the intersection of Carver County Road 122 and Highway 25 in Watertown.
For a list of current hours or to learn more, go to www.athc.org or call (952) 955-1130.