Single-sort boosts Minneapolis recycling by 25%

Recycling rates
A slide detailing recycling rates in Minneapolis from a Solid Waste and Recycling Division presentation to the Minneapolis City Council.
Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis

After one year of activity, Minneapolis' single-sort recycling program has boosted the amount residents are recycling by 25 percent. That falls below the city's predictions for the new system, but comes as city workers plan an educational program targeting low-performing neighborhoods.

Minneapolis switched from a system requiring residents to sort each recyclable product separately to a single-sort system starting in November 2012. The city finished the rollout in April of last year.

• Video: How single-sort recycling works

Minneapolis City Council Members received an update on the program at the Transportation and Public Works Committee on Tuesday. Most council members said they were pleased with the program's progress.

"It's the best thing that's happened in a long time, at least in my household, because I hated the Tuesdays where I had to sort everything out, didn't have enough trash bags, it was terrible," said Council Member Blong Yang. "I love this."

David Herberholz, director of the Solid Waste and Recycling Division, said the city has boosted the amount recycled by weight by 25 percent from June 2013 to June 2014, although the city had anticipated a 30-60 percent increase under the new program.

The city has also reduced the amount of trash sent to the incinerator by 16 percent or 13,511 tons.

"In our waste and recycling programs, we are moving in the right direction, a positive direction, that being that our waste is declining and our recycling is increasing," Herberholz said.

A neighborhood breakdown released by the city shows more recycling in southwest Minneapolis and less recycling in north Minneapolis. The city is planning an educational campaign to help increase recycling rates across the city. City workers said they're planning to reach across language and cultural barriers to help people understand how the system works.

"We're looking to drill down to the neighborhood groups...and actually go out there and target some education to get people that maybe aren't recycling as much or aren't recycling at all to see how easy it is in the program, and help us increase that recycling rate," Herberholz.

Recycling rates in Minneapolis stagnated for years before single-sort recycling was introduced. By 2011, the recycled products accounted for just 16.5 of total waste. By 2017, the city aims to increase that proportion, including organics composting, to 32.6 percent of total waste.

The city's proposed organics composting program would cost about $8 million to launch if it's approved.

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