Montgomery approves first-in-the-state recycling venue

By: 
Mike Mallow

While it won’t be open for public use, a new recycling facility will be bringing benefits to Montgomery starting next month.

Cosmic Recycling has plans to open a facility that focuses on recycling solar panels and electronic waste, dubbed e-waste. The waste items will be shipped in from outside sources rather than collected from the community.

The facility will be located at 513 1st St. South in Montgomery in a facility owned by Hruby Rentals.

Few places in the United States recycle solar panels. There are currently no solar panel recyclers in Minnesota, with the nearest location being in Chicago.

Representatives from Cosmic Recycling spoke to the Montgomery Planning and Zoning Commission on March 13. They sought approval for a conditional use permit.

“We’re just trying to solve problems,” Cosmic Recycling’s Director of Development and Services Mark Way told the commission. “We’re definitely on the leading edge of what’s, in five years, probably going to be more people doing what we’re doing. But right now we’re leading the charge.”

The commission’s primary concern was about the environmental impact, which the representatives addressed over the bulk of the meeting time.

Donnie Hopp, Director of Operations for Cosmic Recycling, noted that they have the backing of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPAC) which enforces environmental regulations in the state.

“We have to follow MPAC guidelines. They’re very, very tough. You think hazardous waste is tough, electronics is worse.”

Cosmic Recycling has a sister company in Cosmos, P.E.C.E. Recycling. Way says that the Montgomery site is for specifically targeted e-waste and solar panels. P.E.C.E. handles a variety of other products.

Hopp noted that while they are experienced processors they are limited in what they can do with e-waste at the Cosmos location.

“We do collect e-waste, but we can’t process it in Minnesota,” Hopp told the commission. “This is our next step. We are going to do it somewhere, and we want to do it here. We like the community.”

The recycling process consists of three grinders that will reduce the waste to a certain size. “A lot of the equipment we use, and will be on the site, is similar to the grain industry,” Way explained.

Once the e-waste is ground, the machines separate the materials based on their weight. “The light things like paper and labels will go into one bin,” Way described. “The next bin will be a little heavier, and a little heavier until you have your glass, ABS plastics, all the way up to aluminums and coppers. Those just simply get loaded back on a truck and sent back to the spot market.”

Way says that they have vendors who want the plastic that is extracted from the solar panels, which is used in the creation of appliances and computers.

Way noted that the operation would be self-contained inside the facility. “The MPAC is very much on board with how we do this,” Way said, speaking to how the machinery works and keeps harmful materials out of the air. “We work very closely with a group from the MPAC to make sure we get the right quality of air.”

The application notes that no modifications will be made to the exterior of the building. The company hopes to have up to 10 employees once they’re a full operation, which would require additional parking spaces to be added.

“If we have people here who need a job, we love doing that. That’s what we want to do,” Way concluded.

The request for a conditional use permit was unanimously granted by the Planning and Zoning Commission under the condition that it is reviewed by the fire chief and the building inspector to make sure there are no unforeseen issues, and that approval is provided from state and local governments.

The request then went to the Montgomery City Council, where they approved the conditional use permit at their March 18 meeting.

Cosmic Recycling hopes to begin readying the building for operation starting April 1 and becoming operational in May or June.

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