Hennepin County’s challenge: One year, zero waste

County is recruiting 50 households for 12-month trash study

Hennepin County is seeking up to 50 households willing to commit one full year to its Zero Waste Challenge.

The challenge is this: Record how much waste your household produces every week for a year and, with the support and advice of county experts, try to recycle or compost as much of it as possible. Participants earn a $350 stipend if they make it a full 12 months, and in exchange the county gets deeper insight into the everyday challenges and triumphs of dealing with household waste.

“We’re calling it a challenge, but really it’s a study,” Carolyn Collopy, the county’s senior environmentalist, said.

The county has its own challenge to meet, but on a slightly longer timeline. By 2030, the state wants to see the county’s waste diversion rate hit 75 percent, meaning three-quarters of all waste is diverted away from the landfill or incinerator and into recycling or compost.

As of 2015, the diversion rate was 46 percent, according to the county’s April 2016 Recycling Progress Report. Forty-three percent of waste was recycled (up from about 41 percent in 2014) and just 3 percent was composted (a rate unchanged from the previous year).

Collopy said one way to boost the countywide diversion rate is by identifying the barriers individual households face in their own waste-reduction efforts. That’s where the challenge comes in.

The Zero Waste Challenge runs Sept. 15, 2016–Sept. 15, 2017. Each participant agrees to attend one of five introductory workshops scheduled in September, plus three more waste-reduction workshops over the course of the year.

Participating households will get a free scale to weigh their trash, recycling and compost each week, plus a variety of recycling and composting supplies. They’ll also receive visits from a county expert who will coach them in waste-reduction strategies.

Collopy said the stipend is meant to reimburse each household for a year’s worth of solid waste and recycling fees. To fill out an online application before the Aug. 26 deadline, go to hennepin.us/zerowastechallenge.