Hennepin County to push Minneapolis to begin curbside organic waste collection

Dumping out the collection bins
Truck driver Brian Netzke empties composting bins at the Full Circle Organics composting facility in Good Thunder, Minn., Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.
Alex Kolyer / For MPR News

Hennepin County officials plan to drop their bid to burn more garbage at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center in favor of pushing the city of Minneapolis to collect residents' organic waste.

County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said Friday that the board plans to vote on a resolution next month that would require Minneapolis to begin curbside collection of organics by Jan. 1, 2015.

HERC had sought a 20 percent increase in the amount of trash it can burn each day, but the Minneapolis City Council had not yet signed off on the plan. Some environmental groups were pushing city officials to reject the proposal, citing a need to reduce overall waste while preventing additional air emissions that can be harmful to people's health.

"This resolution is the, 'OK, time to move on' resolution," McLaughlin said. "It's time to get to the next generation solid waste system. It's time for people who have been advocating for composting to either put up or shut up."

McLaughlin said county officials weren't making progress on the move to burn more garbage at HERC. He said a strategy to tie county recycling funds to deadlines for Minneapolis has worked in the past, such as when the county pushed the city to implement single-sort recycling.

According to the resolution, curbside pickup of organics — usually including food scraps, teabags and pizza boxes — would apply to all residents living in one to eight-unit buildings.

Minneapolis officials had already been moving toward curbside pickup of organics, but no definitive timeline had been set.

"That would be a very difficult date to hit operationally," Minneapolis Public Works Director Steve Kotke said of the proposed January deadline, adding that city and county officials are discussing the details.

One challenge to implementing organics recycling is a state rule on organics recycling facilities, Kotke said. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is considering changing the rules. According to a recent MPCA study, nearly a third of the trash Minnesotans sent to landfills in 2012 was compostable.

Under an ideal scenario, Minneapolis would be able to combine yard waste with other organics to avoid some extra collection costs, Kotke said.

But the city is on board with the county's plan in principle, Kotke said.

"We're all very interested in increasing the amount that we recycle and really it's about the diversion of solid waste into landfills," he said. "We went to one-sort recycling and have seen recycling rates go up, so the next step is to look seriously at organics."

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