by Deb Seminary

Editor’s Note: March 31, 2015 marked the first year anniversary of the curbside recycling program in Bismarck. Inspired Woman sat down with Jeff Heintz, Director of Public Works – Service Operations for the City of Bismarck, to hear how the program is going. You will also learn a little about the landfill.

“The people that are using the program are happy with it,” said Heintz. “The die-hard recyclers are thrilled and the people who didn’t recycle before are happy because it is simple and they don’t have to sort. Some have suggested they get garbage picked up every other week and recyclables picked up every week, since they have reduced the amount of trash they throw out.”


Waste Management, the company contracted to manage the recycling program, is happy, too. Heintz said there is not a lot of contamination (of food, other non-recyclable materials) and they are taking a semi load of materials to their Materials Recovery Facility (MRF, pronounced murf) in Minneapolis daily, so their volume is good. The MRF then uses an automated process to separate the materials.

The city does not receive any revenue from the recycled waste because of the distance it must travel to be processed. If a facility is built within 200 miles, then Bismarck could begin to see some revenue. “We are taking material out of the waste stream that is being reused,” stressed Heintz. “And, the ultimate goal is saving space in the landfill.”

Currently it is not possible to measure exactly how much space is being saved in the Bismarck landfill. The City will be doing some engineering studies in the future to monitor volumes. The success of the single-sort recycling program shows that there was a 267% increase (in recycling) with the addition of the curbside containers. In 2013, 1138 tons were collected (in the old drop off trailers) and in 2014, 3057 tons were collected.

“Our goal is to reduce the volumes going out to the landfill, in whatever way we can,” said Heintz. “Recycling is just one of the spokes in the wheel. We do a lot of separation as things come out to the landfill: construction and demolition debris; trees and branches – which get ground up and used for landscaping or as bio mass to heat one of our buildings. We also sell some to Parks & Rec for the Aquatics Center; grass and leaves; metal; concrete and asphalt – which gets crushed and reused for road base; appliances.
“We pull as much as we can to keep it from going into the municipal solid waste cell, because that is the most expensive cell out there. It has a thick, plastic liner and a Leachate Collection System that collects the liquids and takes them all the way to the water treatment plant where they are cleaned up and released back into the environment. It is a very expensive process.”

Of course, the Public Works Department is looking ahead – planning 60 – 100 years out. The landfill does not do any methane collection now, but is setting itself up with vent wells to do so in the future. Heintz would like to use methane for the garbage fleet, as a fuel source, so they can be totally off the grid. Any extra methane would be sold to an industrial user. He is also optimistic about a better process for disposing of waste. “It boggles my mind that we have been sticking garbage in the ground and covering it up for the last 10,000 years. There have to be better processes that will become affordable.”

In the near future Heintz said there will be a volume based fee structure for garbage disposal. “There will be a real reward for people that recycle,” he explained. “People will pay for how much they are disposing, which will be monitored through the size of the container needed. Recycling is now part of the garbage collection for the City of Bismarck. We think the people of Bismarck are proud of their city and we want to keep providing that service at the most economical price possible.”

Helpful Hint: Please do not put your recyclables in plastic bags. When they get to the MRF, plastic bags become tangled in the equipment.

Another Helpful Hint for windy days: If you have a cardboard box to put in the recycle bin, save it for last, flatten and cover everything with the box so it acts like a cap, just in case the bin blows over.

The City of Bismarck provides single-sort drop sites throughout the city. Visit for more information.

Curbside Recycling Ahead for Mandan

Curbside Recycling could be coming to Mandan. City Administrator, Jim Neubauer, said Mandan is moving closer to implementing a program and a request for proposal will go out soon. “Single sort seems the way to go,” he said. “We will see what type of proposals we get.”

Currently, Mandan’s trash is taken to a transfer station outside of town, then transferred to a Waste Management facility in Wishek. This contract expires in June.

Neubauer said the city should have more information the beginning of May, so residents will not have to wait long to hear what plans are being made for recycling in their community.

There is a site to recycle newspapers, telephone books and cardboard at the Mandan Dog Town Park, 810 8th Avenue South in Mandan. To keep up to date, visit