Single sort recycling coming to Minneapolis soon

A city committee today voted 5-0 to implement single sort recycling in Minneapolis, 30 years after the city began its curbside recycling program. 

City staff is still working out the finer points of how the program will look, but David Herberholz, the city’s new director of solid waste and recycling services, said residents could be wheeling out one big cart with all of their recyclables as soon as this winter. 

“We are going to move forward as quickly as we possibly can,” Public Works Director Steven Kotke said. “We’re going to work wherever we can to shorten that timeframe for implementing the system.”

The Transportation and Public Works Committee’s decision came after it was given a consultant’s report showing the city’s recycling rate at just 18 percent, while St. Paul recycles at a 30 percent rate and Portland at a 34 percent rate. Hennepin County has set a 35 percent goal for the city. 

The consultant, David Stead of Resource Recycling Systems, said a single-sort system would lower the city’s annual net recycling operation costs from $900,000 a year to $717,00 a year while increasing the city’s recycling rate to 32 percent. He based that estimate on other cities that implemented single sort program as well as results from the ongoing pilot programs in the ECCO and Willard-Hay neighborhoods of Minneapolis.

Kotke said it would cost about $8.3 million for the city to buy eight new trucks and to replace recycling bins with rolling carts. Kotke said the Public Works Department could handle the capital costs without borrowing, although he will bring back a full implementation plan and budget in June. 

“It appears, given the fund balance that we have, we should be able to manage this without issuing bonds,” he said. 

Herberholz said he doesn’t expect garbage and recycling rates to increase as a result of the new system. 

“Frankly, I never expected that almost on every single data point you look at, the direction goes to single sort as the right answer,” City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8).

Herberholz has been on the job for three months. He said that the reason single sort has taken so long to adopt in Minneapolis is because new technology at processing facilities has lowered the cost of sorting recyclables. 

“The technology has caught up,” he said. 

The big challenge, Heberholz said, will be increasing education to residents. When cities go to a single sort system, residents tend to throw more un-recyclable materials into their carts, forcing the city to pay for those materials to be disposed. 

“And that’s why education is of the utmost importance” he said.

For a full list of recyclable materials in Minneapolis, check here.