Drop-off organics recycling options expand in Twin Cities

An organics drop-off site in St. Paul’s Macalester-Groveland neighborhood has collected about 90,000 pounds of organic waste since it opened in June 2012. A new organics drop-off site has been set up in Pearl Park in south Minneapolis, and several of Ramsey County’s yard waste sites now collect organics. Photo courtesy of Lauren Anderson/Macalester Groveland Community Council

Minneapolis and St. Paul residents who lament tossing things like dirty Kleenex, paper towels and dryer lint into the trash have some new options.

More drop-off sites for organic waste have been popping up, including one at Pearl Park that a group of south Minneapolis neighbors organized while they wait for the city to offer curbside pickup.

Minneapolis officials have said they hope curbside organics recycling will expand citywide sometime next year, but neighbors wanted a convenient way to recycle food waste, dirty napkins and other compostable material sooner.

“Since we couldn’t have curbside quite yet [the city is] actually picking up the organics at our drop-site location at Pearl Park,” said Sarah Sillers, who serves on the board at the Hale-Page-Diamond Lake Community Association and helped organize the project. “It’s been a great, I think, middle ground for the time being.”

Residents in south Minneapolis can drop off organic waste at Pearl Park on Tuesdays from 4-7 and Saturdays from 9-12. A volunteer helps make sure garbage isn’t getting into the collection bins. After a few months, people who sign up for the program will be able to drop off their organic waste anytime by using a passcode to open the locked bins.

Sillers said a lot of neighbors already do backyard composting, but she said it isn’t for everyone.

“A lot of people don’t have space, for one, or the time or energy, for two. One of the great things about this program is that it’s a high heat organics recycling facility, so you can throw things in this organics recycling that you couldn’t in your back yard,” she said.

A similar drop-off site in St. Paul’s Macalester-Groveland neighborhood has collected over 90,000 pounds of compostable food and paper waste since it opened in June 2012.

“There is so much community demand for this,” said Lauren Anderson, recycling and environmental coordinator for the council. “We were surprised by the strong response.”

About 290 households are signed up for the program, which is open to anyone who lives or works in St. Paul.

Ramsey County has also added six drop-off organics recycling sites open to Ramsey County residents. Starting last month, residents started bringing organic waste, including certain paper products, to six already existing yard waste drop-off locations.

Zack Hansen, the county’s environmental health director, said people who already recycle have been noticing that most of what they throw in the trash is compostable. A state waste study released last year showed organic material makes up nearly a third of what Minnesotans send to landfills.

Hansen said the organics drop-off program probably won’t be permanent. “We see it as a transition into a more complete system down the road,” he said.

Hennepin County also accepts organic waste from Hennepin County residents at its Brooklyn Park facility.