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GreenCorps member joins Hubbard County recycling efforts

Laura Wessberg

Hubbard County is hosting a Minnesota GreenCorps member.

Laura Wessberg is serving with the Hubbard County Solid Waste Department until August 2019, with the goal of improving the environment while gaining professional experience.

Originally from a St. Paul suburb, Wessberg has lived in Minnesota her whole life except while she attended college. Last spring, she graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a Bachelor of Science in sustainability.

One of Wessberg's professors recommended that she apply to Minnesota GreenCorps, an environmentally focused AmeriCorps program coordinated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Forty-two GreenCorps members are placed with various organizations around the state. Members serve full-time (40 hours per week) for 11 months, focusing on one of four areas: air pollutant reduction; community readiness and outreach; green infrastructure improvements, and waste reduction, recycling and organics managements. Wessberg is tasked with the latter.

"I have already sorted through hundreds of pounds of trash and recycling," she said. "I'm working on educating residents and students about waste management in the hopes of reducing the community's impact on the environment."

Wessberg will assist the county as it expands its organics composting program. Thanks to a MPCA grant, source-separated organic material (SSOM), such as food scraps, will be collected in specialized containers and hauled to a new compost facility near Crookston. The 20-yard containers are preloaded with wood chips and use an air circulation system to minimize odors and start decomposition.

"We're going to have three or four bins in Hubbard County. There'll be one at the south transfer station, probably one at the school and one at the hospital," Wessberg said.

She's hoping to launch a citizens group to continue public education efforts about waste management and the environment. An informational meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10 at the Park Rapids Area Library.

Wessberg also wants to get the word out about the county's agricultural plastic recycling program. The company that had been collecting agricultural plastics in northern Minnesota ended their farm-to-farm program, she explained. Hubbard County hopes to coordinate a system with other counties to collect the recyclable plastic. Acceptable items are grain bags, bunker covers, oxygen barrier film and greenhouse plastic. They may be brought to the north or south transfer station.

"We also collect boat wrap," Wessberg added.

As a GreenCorps member, Wessberg receives a living stipend of up to $1,428 per month. She's eligible for health insurance and loan forbearance, plus earns an education award of $5,920 after successfully completing her term.

"I serve because caring for the environment is one of the most important things we can do with our lives. I believe making a difference on the local level is the most impactful. I want people to feel hopeful about the future of our planet and understand their everyday impact," she said.

Wessberg is available to speak at schools, clubs, businesses or organizations. She can be reached at 237-1460.