June 18--Harter's Quick Clean-up opened the doors Tuesday on a $2.1 million processing facility equipped with an elaborate automated system for separating recyclable materials.
When running at full capacity, Green Circle Recycling at 2850 Larson St. will be capable of churning through 750 tons of recyclables a month, trash that otherwise might have ended up in the landfill, said Matt Harter, the former La Crosse mayor who is general manager of the new family-owned business.
The lengthy sorting system, looking like a machine from Willy Wonka's chocolate factory with its conveyor belts and moving parts, can pull out plastics, glass, paper, cardboard, aluminum and other metals -- an expanded list of recyclables now accepted by Harter's.
This "single stream" system promotes better recycling rates because people can just toss all their recyclables into one container, Harter said. The amount of recycling in La Crosse and Onalaska has more than doubled, he said, since both communities switched earlier this year to large, wheeled carts for residential trash collection.
Harter's invested more than $1 million to assemble state-of-the-art equipment for the business, such as a baler, ballistic separator and powerful magnet to extract metals, Harter said.
It's thought to be the only single-stream processing center in the region and "the best facility that's possible," he said.
Harter's began construction on the business last August and had hoped to open it in the first quarter of 2014, but the long and extremely cold winter pushed back completion, Harter said, adding, "Sometimes you've got to take time to do things right."
The new facility was designed with sustainability in mind beyond just the materials coming in, Harter said. Natural light panels will reduce reliance on indoor lighting, with LED lights available when needed. The building is so well insulated that most of its heat in winter should come from retaining what the machinery generates. A rain garden will be installed to handle storm water.
While it will start by taking recyclables from communities Harter's serves in La Crosse County, the business plans to begin marketing its services to other haulers in the region in the future, he said. They will add 15 employees for Green Circle Recycling and intend to run the facility 24 hours a day.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch toured the site after helping with the ribbon-cutting Tuesday. She said the business strikes "the perfect balance" the state tries to achieve between protection and progress when it comes to economic development.
Hank Koch, La Crosse County solid waste director, called the new processing center "gorgeous." He credited Harter's along with La Crosse Public Works Director Dale Hexom and Onalaska City Engineer Jarrod Holter for helping promote recycling and creating the need for the new enterprise.
"It's wonderful to see technology applied to garbage," Koch said with a grin. "I can't wait to see it in full production."
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