Stan Walk wants your used bottles and cans, because he can turn them into conservation land.
“This started about 20 years ago when Allen Krouger and I were partners in the Dam Bar. We had three metal cages built to collect redeemable cans and bottles. The cages cost us about $700 and we took the redemption money and gave it to County Conservation for the acquisition of land,” said Walk.
Walk said he and Allen were always interested in conservation, and people were throwing their cans in ditches. Back then he said they didn’t get a lot of cans, but since the COVID-19 shutdown where people can’t take their cans and bottles to grocery stores or to a local redemption center, they are now getting "lots of cans."
Walk typically volunteers between six to 12 hours a week sorting and hauling redeemed cans and bottles to a redemption center in Lake Mills. The county receives four cents for each can or bottle, which adds up to a good amount with the high volume of redeemed containers they receive in their bins each week. Walk receives compensation for his mileage.
Recently, the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors, of which Walk was a member, appropriated funds to purchase a large portable building and had it placed at the county’s recycling center west of Osage. Before that, Walk and others had been sorting cans in an old semi-trailer that wasn’t winterized.
The new building has been delivered, wired and insulated so sorters will have a more comfortable place to work. Walk says a new heater, and work on an overhead door must be completed before the can sorting operation is moved into the new building. He hopes those changes will takes place within the next couple of weeks.
“If you want to attract business and industry to the county, you have to have conservation areas," he said. "We get a 3-to-1 match toward land acquisition. If you have $10,000 in redeemed can money, we will potentially receive $30,000 more, for a total of $40,000."
Walk said conservation is available for everyone to enjoy.
"If you put money toward fireworks, which is al right, it is gone in a half-hour," he said. "But giving toward conservation land acquisitions in 30 to 40 years it will still be available for the public to use."
He points out that redeeming cans and bottles keeps them out of landfills and ditches as well.
“Sorting is a dirty job, and some people throw garbage and other things in with their cans and bottles," Walk said. "People should not be throwing water bottles in with their redeemable cans and bottles.”
One of the latest land acquisitions that Mitchell County Conservation has made is Robin’s Nest, located two miles west of Osage on Highway 9, and south on Indigo Avenue.
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