Minneapolis moving toward single-sort recycling

(Image: City of Minneapolis)

Minneapolis has offered household recycling for the last 23 years. But for at least the last decade, recycling rates in the city have been stagnant, at around 18 percent.

That relatively low rate of recycling is partly due to the city’s complex sorting scheme. Residents divide recyclables according to nine different categories and place them into separate bags for bi-weekly pickup.

But that sorting requirement might be thrown out.

The Minneapolis City Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee voted Tuesday to start shifting the city’s recycling program to a single-sort collection. That means residents will be able to put all their recyclable materials into one container.

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The city hopes to increase the rate of recycling in the city by 60 percent with the new system.

Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said she’s heard from constituents about the city’s recycling program since she took office in 2005.

“It’s hard for me to express how excited I am about this recommendation,” Glidden said. “I’ve had residents who, frankly, are angry that we don’t have a system that is more simple, that encourages more recycling.”

Consultants from Michigan-based Recycling Resources System outlined the pros and cons of different recycling programs. The consultants found that moving to single-sort recycling would decrease costs and increase recycling rates (see PDF).

Glidden told MPR News that the consultants also considered whether the system could add organics recycling, such as food and yard waste, to the single-sort recycling services in the future.

The Department of Public Works will return to the city council with financial and educational proposals to implement the system early this summer. It’s expected the city will need to invest quite a bit in capital costs. New trucks are at least $150,000 each. But the bigger expense would be new recycling carts for homeowners, which could set the city back a minimum of $6.8 million, according to the report.

Minneapolis Director of Public Works Steven Kotke told MPR News that the city is trying to push single-sort recycling forward so that it can meet sustainability goals set by the county. By 2020, Hennepin County wants Minneapolis to achieve a recycling goal of 35 percent. The city receives a $850,000 county grant that’s tied to changing to a more effective recycling program.

The recommendation to switch to single-sort recycling is expected to be heard by the full City Council on May 25. Kotke said the program could be on the streets by next year.