Twin Cities

New plan to reduce Twin Cities' trash includes curbside composting, public education

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An employee at the Repowered warehouse sorts electronics for recycling on Tuesday in St. Paul. The MPCA's new plan calls for more partnerships with recycling programs like this.
Estelle Timar-Wilcox | MPR News

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has published its new 20-year plan aimed to limit the Twin Cities’ waste production.  

It’s the next step in the MPCA’s plan to address a local trash problem: Waste levels are projected to keep going up, and recycling rates have stagnated.   

The plan sets a goal of cutting waste production 15 percent from the agency’s current projections. Meeting that goal would mean the area would produce about the same amount of waste 20 years from now as they do today. 

“It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s one that we can do with reuse organizations across the metropolitan area and the rest of the state,” said Kirk Koudelka, who works on waste strategy at the MPCA.

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MPCA Assistant Commissioner Kirk Koudelka addresses reporters on Tuesday at Repowered, an electronics recycling warehouse in St. Paul.
Estelle Timar-Wilcox | MPR News

The new plan will be passed on to seven counties in the Twin Cities metro: Anoka, Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington, Scott, Dakota and Carver. County governments will be responsible for crafting their own plans that match the state’s goals. 

The plan outlines a variety of policies for counties to implement, some mandatory and some optional.

Several of those policies focus on cutting waste from major producers. Counties will be required to work with organizations that produce a lot of food waste — like restaurants, hospitals and grocery stores — to cut how much they throw away.

The plan also requires cities with more than 5,000 people to start curbside compost collection programs by 2030. Counties will also have to add support for recycling and composting infrastructure in multi-family buildings. 

It has some asks of individual residents, too. For composting and recycling to work, people will have to know about the programs. The plan calls for public education on waste reduction and asks people to consider cutting down how much they consume. It suggests buying used goods, repairing damaged goods instead of replacing them and sticking to reusable dishes and bags. 

The MPCA announced the plan at a press conference at Repowered, an electronics recycling warehouse in St. Paul. Koudelka said part of the plan will focus on investing resources into organizations like Repowered that recycle and resell goods.

Chris Olson is the repair and reuse manager at Repowered. He said organizations like this have an important role to play — but they’re not without their challenges. Repowered sometimes has to throw things away because there’s no demand for their repurposed goods, or it’s too complicated to get them to a market.

Olson thinks the new plan is a good step towards getting stakeholders together to find solutions.

“I’m hopeful with the plan that they put out,” Olson said. “If we are having good communication and laying out what some of the frustrations are, maybe we can come up with some good ideas.”

Koudelka said the MPCA will be working with each county to help craft their individual plans over the next nine months.

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