Minneapolis tests ‘one-sort’ recycling

Recycling is about to get easier for residents of two Minneapolis neighborhoods.

The city has selected about 1,030 households in the Willard-Hay and East Calhoun neighborhoods for a recycling pilot program. The test group will put all of their recyclables in one cart, instead of sorting them into separate bags.

City officials will study the results — the amount of recyclables, the profits from sales, and the program’s costs — to see how they stack up against the city’s current recycling program. Another test project, based in the Seward neighborhood, has residents sort recycling into two piles, one for paper products and the other for everything else.

Here’s how the city sorts recyclables now:

recycling truck.jpg

In other words, recycling in Minneapolis might not require a Mensa-level I.Q., but it’s not exactly easy, either.

Plastic bottles, glass bottles, metal cans need to be sorted into separate paper bags. Newspapers need to be placed in a different bag or tied into a bundle “with string or twine,” not to exceed 20 pounds, according to the city’s website. And that’s not all. Throw away all caps or lids from cans or bottles. Don’t forget to put phone books and corrugated cardboard in paper bags. And make sure to remove all plastic from any dry food boxes or office paper.

The city’s website explains why:

Sorted recycling generates the biggest revenue … If the City of Minneapolis used single-stream recycling (all recycling in one bin, as some areas do), the higher cost of processing these materials would result in lower revenue, and possible cuts in other waste services.

The City Council will review the results from the pilot program “for consideration in future recycling operations,” the city said in a statement released on Monday.

(Recycling truck photo courtesy of the city of Minneapolis website)

  • Nicole

    This is a great idea. I recently moved to Minneapolis from a city that didn’t require us to sort recycling. I used to recycle everything I possibly could, including yoghurt containers and plastic bags. Minneapolis is so complicated and limited in what they take that I’ve only actually put out my recycling once in the last two months. Not to mention the frustration of having to put everything in paper bags. I used to use reusable bags for grocery shopping so I could be part of the solution. Now I can’t use those because I need the paper bags in order to recycle. There’s got to be a better way to go than this.

  • Meg

    I sort all our recyclables at the end of the 2 weeks we spend accumulating them. Tieing and twining all our cardboard takes more time too. I love recycling and hate to throw things out. But the rebate the city provides isn’t a great incentive, reducing my initiative to get it done correctly. 7 bucks? I wonder how much the credit is in the burbs, where they do the no-sort thing.

  • Matt

    The current Minneapolis recycling rules are archaic and ineffective. Not only is sorting a disincentive to recycle, but using open bins often means recycling can’t be put out until the night before or day of recycling. Even then, rain compromises paper bags. Wind blows away plastic, cans and paper leaving us with littered alleys, streets and yards. The city’s claim that a no-sort, single canister system reaps less revenue misses the point — their current system dirties our city and makes it more likely our landfills will contain plastic and other non-biodrigadable trash. Is testing a few neighborhoods really necessary when data is available from hundreds of municipalities? The city’s reluctance to embrace a sensible, eco-friendly system makes one wonder who is profiting off the current system.