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Tuesday Talk: Moving MN toward zero waste?

May 07, 2013 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

Recycling in Minneapolis is getting a whole lot more convenient. The city is distributing big blue single-sort recycling bins, hoping the near effortless system will improve dismal recycling rates. Eureka Recycling—operating mostly in Ramsey County communities—is considering single-source and composting options. Check out what your community is doing at Recycle More Minnesota’s website. Despite all of these efforts, we’re still a long way off from Zero waste.

What are the barriers and opportunities in your community to expanding recycling, composting, and other initiatives that moves us closer to zero waste?

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  • Tom Brinkman says:

    May 7, 2013 at 7:34 am

    I do not believe that most communities, or the state, have a measure of either how much we could recycle, or how much we are recycling vs. the total posssible amount.  If we do, I never see these numbers put in front of the average citizen by government agencies or by the media.  So we just drift unknowingly—“out of sight, out of mind”.  We will never rally around the cause if we do not know how well, or how poor we are doing.  We will just continue to drift.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    May 7, 2013 at 8:59 am

    St. Paul is also looking at this method. It works very well in (I believe) Sweden, which gave us our district heating and cooling system, and there’s no reason this system couldn’t work here as well.  Many jobs in sorting would be created, lots of landfill dumping avoided and the components of much more stuff re-used.

    St. Paul has a pilot composting project in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood.  I have not yet joined because I don’t have room in my freezer to store kitchen scraps packaged in compostable bags for a week or two at a time.  Perhaps someday we’ll have a system like Sweden’s which, as I understand it, allows you to put such scraps and other items in a receiver that vacuum-swooshes it away to be recycled.

    You might print an article on Sweden’s system and other proposals for single-sort re-use.

  • Becky Johnson says:

    May 7, 2013 at 10:53 am

    I am curious…how is it that MPLS and many suburbs recycle more varieties of plastics, and Saint Paul doesn’t?  Also why is it that MPLS composts and we don’t? These are sincere questions. Any thoughts?

    Thank you.

  • Alan Muller says:

    May 7, 2013 at 11:01 am

    The biggest obstacle to increased recycling in Minnesota is the garbage incineration industry.

    Tied to that is the MPCA’s relentless promotion of incineration, and associated neglect of recycling.

    Expecting burner people to promote recycling is like expecting Xcel Energy to promote energy efficiency.  Tokenism and propaganda is what you get.

    Also worth noting is that “single sort” or “single stream” recycling is a very mixed blessing at best.  This has been hyped relentlessly in Minneapolis, but city waste officials have not responded to my calls seeking detailed information.

  • Frank says:

    May 7, 2013 at 11:26 am

    How about using our collective intelligence by moving MN toward the kind of beverage container deposit law (a.k.a. “Bottle Bill) utilized to great effect by a dozen other states.

    Beverage containers make up the largest portion (over 80%) of all containers sold in the U.S.; and comprise 40-60% of litter.

    The Solid Waste Coordinators of Kentucky found that 58% of litter collected consisted of beverage containers, pull tabs, and closures.

    Deposit laws significantly reduce container litter AND other types of litter. Following the implementation of bottle bills in various states, container litter has been reduced by 69 to 84 %, while total litter has been reduced by 34-64 percent.


  • Alan Muller says:

    May 7, 2013 at 11:37 am

    This is true and an important point.

    Measuring recycling is, in practice, not the easiest thing.  Nobody totally agrees on what “recycling” is, let along how to measure it.

    For example, until recently Minneapolis was telling its residents the city had a 30% plus recycling rate.  Now, the city claims something less than 17%.  I think the difference is/was that the higher number considered only residential recycling, but it’s hard to be sure as reliable information is scarce.

    But we can compare our performance roughly.

    Minneapolis:  Around 17 percent.  San Francisco:  Around 75-80 percent. We might quibble over details but the picture is clear enough.

    The key, really, is to set hard, enforceable goals and then analyze how to get there over a reasonable period of time…