In the early to mid 1990s several things began to happen.
The volume of incoming MSW was increasing to the extent that during peak summer periods the WTE plant's capacity was exceeded resulting in material being bypassed to the landfill. This was not predicted to occur for some time as it was felt that improvements in the counties' recycling rates would offset MSW tonnage increases. County recycling was increasing but at a snails pace.
In addition maintenance costs were rising annually at an abnormal rate, and plant downtime due to breakdowns was increasing. Pending air emission rules both from the Environmental Protection Agency and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency were a major concern.
A project team was established to determine how to approach the problems of increased bypass to the landfill, rising maintenance costs, and excessive plant downtime. It became obvious that the primary culprit was large problem and objectionable items such as:
Unacceptable Items List
Polk has published and tried to enforce an unacceptable items list for the Counties to follow but its success has been marginal. Haulers cannot see everything in the dumpsters and cannot be expected to sort through the trash fearing exposure to who knows what. Residents and businesses became very clever in their efforts to hide or disguise objects.
People prefer to receive a full service for a fee. They have trash to get rid of and they want it all to disappear. After all before the WTE plant and recycling they just left everything on the curb in the morning and it was gone when they returned at night.