County seeks nonprofits’ help on organics recycling

$100,000 available to nonprofits for organics education and outreach

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Hennepin County will offer up to eight nonprofits up to $10,000 for residential-organics education and outreach projects, it announced July 13.

The county will teach representatives from the nonprofits about organics recycling and have them research barriers to it in their communities. The nonprofits will work with county staff to develop their projects.

The effort comes as Hennepin County continues to work toward the recycling and waste-diversion targets set as part of the 2012 solid waste management master plan. The plan calls for reducing waste by six percent overall and recycling 75 percent of waste by 2030. It also calls for diverting 91 percent of waste away from landfills.

Hennepin County recycled about 51 percent of all waste in 2016, according to an April report. It diverted 82 percent of waste away from landfills, a rate on part with national leaders, according to the report.

Organic waste, especially food waste, appears to be a significant area in which the county could improve. Organic material represented about 25 percent of material by weight found during a waste sort conducted in May 2016 in Minneapolis. Food waste represented about 19 percent of the material by weight.

Organic material produces methane gas as it breaks down in landfills, according to Tim Farnan, principal planner in the Sustainable Materials Management Unit of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The material can instead be used to create compost, a product with environmental benefits.

Compost helps soil retain water and can help plants be more drought resistant, he said. In addition, using compost means typically a need to use less herbicides and pesticides.

Just three percent of all waste in the county was diverted to organics recycling in 2016. However, residential organics recycling increased by 181 percent in 2016, because of Minneapolis completing the roll out of its curbside organics recycling program last June.

More than 42,000 households in Minneapolis participated in curbside organics recycling programs in 2016, a participation rate of 40 percent. Nearly 46,000 households in 11 cities in Hennepin County participated in total, a rate of 11 percent.

Up to $10,000 per organization

The new program, called Green Partners Grow, targets nonprofits in Hennepin County cities that have curbside organics programs (Loretto, Maple Plain, Medicine Lake, Medina, Minneapolis, St. Bonifacius, St. Louis Park and Wayzata).

Representatives of selected organizations will attend two days of training to learn about organics recycling, uncover barriers to it within their audiences and develop a project plan. The organizations will then receive a grant of up to $10,000 and free supplies to implement their projects.

Angie Timmons, environmental education and outreach coordinator for Hennepin County, said it’s important to facilitate that peer-to-peer interaction on organics recycling. The goal is not just to get more participants, she said, but also to teach people who already participants tips and tricks.

“It’s what works best for their community, but then we also arm them with ideas,” she said.

42.6 percent participation in Minneapolis

Kellie Kish, recycling coordinator for Minneapolis, said a barrier to organics recycling can be that many people simply don’t know about it. Her department has had interns go door to door to tell residents about the program, especially in areas of the city with lower participation rates.

That effort has helped get all neighborhoods in Minneapolis to at least 20-percent participation.

Kish added that another barrier can be concern about the smell.

She said her office had encouraged Hennepin County to do a grant program just for organics. They would hear from cultural groups that they didn’t staff time to encourage people to participate in the program.

Over 45,000 households, or 42.6 percent of Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling customers, had signed up to participate in organics recycling as of Monday, according to David Herberholz, director of the Division of Solid Waste and Recycling. Participating residents diverted 175 pounds of organics per household in the first year of the program.

The division is looking to establish a new formal goal to reach by the end of 2018, Kish said. Right now, it’s still receiving about 100 new sign ups each week. She said sign ups will likely decrease a bit over the winter months, but they are planning another big outreach and education push in the spring.

The North Loop neighborhood had the highest participation rate as of July 10, at 87.9 percent. Linden Hills was next at 66.3 percent, followed by Seward (64.8 percent), ECCO (62.1 percent) and Downtown West (60.7 percent).

Hennepin County is hoping to recruit five to eight nonprofits for the Green Partners Grow program, for which about $100,000 is available, Timmons said. Projects could include sorting activities or helping people following the path of food from the curbside to the compost bin.

The county will host informational meetings about the program on July 25, and applications are due Aug. 11. Visit http://www.hennepin.us/business/work-with-henn-co/green-partners-grow-application to learn more or apply.

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