Plastic bags containing recyclables are the biggest glitch in the process
By Charles Hallman
Minneapolis began recycling programs in the mid-1980s. Last year, a city-wide “one-sort recycling” program began, and over 67,000 “blue-colored recycling carts” were delivered and “rolled out” to city residents between April and June, 2013.
City officials report a five-percent reduction in materials going to the incinerator, along with a five-percent increase in recycled materials. “We hope to see an even bigger increase in the amount of materials diverted from the incinerator for recycling with a full year of the one-sort recycling program and additional public education,” predicts Minneapolis Recycling Coordinator Kellie Kish in a recent MSR interview.
“Minneapolis and St. Paul are two of the last cities [in the state] to move to either a dual-sort or this single-sort collection method,” explains Kish. “A dual-sort would be all of your paper items go into one cart, and all of your container items
go into the second cart.
“Most everyone else in the state — in the metro — is on this type of program,” she continues. When asked why the Twin Cities were slow in converting, “I can’t speak 100 percent to why we were the last one. Probably the logistics behind all of this were a lot bigger to make a big change,” responds Kish.
The City’s goal is to double recyclables from 18,000 tons to 36,000 tons per year by 2015. “Since we began the one-sort program, our average recycling per month is 2,302 tons. Our average under the multi-sort program for the same time period was 1,593 tons,” Kish points out, adding that elimination the step of sorting recyclable items as a possible reason for the differences. “All of Minneapolis recyclables are processed at the Materials Recovery Facility” located on West Broadway in North Minneapolis, she says. “It is a very complex process.”
A “Minneapolis Recycles” brochure that offers easy-to-read “How to recycle” tips as well as items not to recycle, will be mailed out city-wide during April.
“There are still some issues of people leaving plastic bags in the recycling [cart],” notes Kish. “In some instances, people are putting full plastic bags in the cart, and in others they are using plastic bags to collect what they are recycling in, and then putting that plastic bag in the cart.
“That is one of my biggest educational challenges to get across in as many ways as possible,” she continues on recycling plastic bags. “Plastic bags either go into the garbage cart or, if it’s clean and dry, plastic bags can be brought to participating grocery stores and/or [larger] retailers for recycling.”
New recyclable items include the “cardboard can that has a metal bottom and a box-board side, and either a metal or plastic lid” that potato chips and peanuts usually come in, she adds. Kish also says that such bathroom items as toilet paper rolls, toothpaste boxes, dryer sheet boxes and powder detergent boxes “are frequently missed in people’s recycling” as well.
Styrofoam products, such as egg cartons, however, as well as items used to pack new electronics, should not be put in the one-sort bin, notes the coordinator. “Those items could be recycled but they are not in our program because there is no local outlet to actually have them recycled,” admits Kish.
“We’re hoping that most of those problems will be solved” with the new mailing, says Kish. “Additionally, I am going out to many, many neighborhood events with my recycling game. I have a small garbage can and a small recycling bin, and I put a whole bunch of stuff on a table, and I have residents come up and ask them to sort the materials and tell me why this particular item goes into the recycling or why this particular item does not go into recycling.”
Kish says children seem easier to educate on recycling “and they go home and make sure mom and dad are participating correctly at home,” she says.
“My job is to continue to provide education and to educate people on what items” to recycle “and also to look around their homes and find things that they could be recycling but they’re not,” concludes Kish, who joined the City last year but has six years experience working in recycling. She says she is available to meet with large groups or “a few select residents.”
For more information, call the City of Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling Office at 612-673-2917, or visit www.minneapolismn.gov/onesort.