City to collect organic waste in Linden Hills

LINDEN HILLS — On Oct. 5, the City Council gave the green light for a pilot program that will initiate curbside collection of Source Separated Organics (SSO) in Linden Hills.

As part of their regular recycling routine, single-family homes and buildings up to four-plexes will be able to put their food scraps, pizza boxes, paper towels, grass clippings and other biodegradable substances into a bin provided by the city and leave it at their curbs for weekly pickup.

"I’m excited that we’re going to be able to go forward [with the program]," said Susan Young, director of the city’s Solid Waste and Recycling division who spearheaded the pilot project.

She’s currently in talks with Schaefer Systems, a company that specializes in waste disposal, to acquire carts for the neighborhood at no charge to residents. The wheeled receptacles will look exactly like their current black trash bins, but they will be green. Those who participate in the program may also be able to order smaller, cheaper trash carts due to the space freed up from separating their organics.

Residents will also be given compostable bags for everyday storage, which can then be thrown into the bins for pickup. Depending on how quickly they can get all of the carts, households may be phased into the program over time.

The study, which is expected to start once the bins arrive, will take place over one year. If the city decides to make changes, the year will start over again and if the study proves cost-effective, the curbside SSO pickup will continue indefinitely. Residents can join the study by responding to a direct mailing from the city about the project.

"I think this can help kick-start something great," said Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) in a prepared statement. "It makes financial and environmental sense […] and I think the public is hungry for something like this."

Thirty to 40 percent of garbage in Minneapolis is organic waste that could potentially be recycled, according to city documents. The Hennepin County garbage burner, where Minneapolis trash goes, is at maximum capacity, and the city has had to pay to transport excess waste to landfills in and out of the state. Only throwing away non-recyclable items such as leather, broken glass and ceramics and recycling the rest would greatly reduce the load. And as an added incentive, Hennepin County will offer the city a reduced tipping fee — or waste surcharge — for recycling SSO.

"In general, I think it’s great to try to figure this out," said Carol White, a Linden Hills resident who has tried composting on her own. "We’re ripe for a new plan […] we’d be willing to experiment."

The city selected Linden Hills as the first neighborhood in Minneapolis to collect organic waste due largely in part to Linden Hills Power & Light (LHP&L), a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and energy conservation. The community-based group has been working on a feasibility study for a neighborhood anaerobic mini-digester, which recently received a $45,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

The $4 million digester, which would be the first of its kind to be used in a community setting in the United States, would use the organic material to produce biogas, a type of fuel that can be used in place of natural gas or transportation fuels.

According to Felicity Britton, executive director of LHP&L, biogas could power homes in Linden Hills, garbage trucks or school buses. In addition to the recent grant, the project has received $30,000 from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and matching funds of $67,000 from national energy experts.

"[The Linden Hills SSO pilot program] is such a good step in the right direction environmentally," said Britton. "When people are more aware and more thoughtful of their recycling of organics, then the rates of recycling everything goes up a lot."

Reach Mary O’Regan at [email protected] or 436-5088.