County Board approves revised recycling ordinance

Organics recycling will be coming to the rest of Hennepin County in the next few years.

The Hennepin County Board on Nov. 27 approved a revised recycling ordinance that requires cities to offer curbside organics recycling service to residents by Jan. 1, 2022. The ordinance also requires businesses that generate large quantities of food waste to implement food recycling by Jan. 1, 2020.

“Hennepin County residents are strongly interested in environmental protection and organics recycling helps them achieve that goal,” County Board Chair Jan Callison said in a press release. “We were able to actively engage with the local communities, cities, and businesses to create a common-sense approach to organics requirements that makes implementing organics recycling manageable for city partners and businesses.”

The ordinance revision comes as the county works toward its goal of recycling 75 percent of waste and sending no waste to landfills by 2030. Waste-sort studies show that organic materials are the largest proportion of trash at about 25 percent, according to the county’s solid waste management master plan, making them a prime target for increasing recycling.

According to the master plan document, which was passed in November 2017, nine cities in Hennepin County have organics recycling service available citywide, including Minneapolis and St. Louis Park. The document says Minneapolis has an organics recycling participation rate of more than 40 percent.

The ordinance will require all cities with populations above 10,000 to make organics recycling service available to households with curbside recycling service. Cities with populations under 10,0000 can choose not to make curbside organics recycling service available but must provide at least one organics recycling drop-off site by Jan. 1, 2022.

Businesses such as restaurants, hotels and grocers that generate one ton or more of trash per week or contract for weekly collection of eight or more cubic yards of trash must implement food-waste recycling. The county selected those thresholds because large generators of organics are likely to break even or even save money when implementing food-waste recycling, according to a press release.

Multifamily properties must provide recycling education to residents, offer adequate service for the collection of recyclables, increase service levels if insufficient, provide recycling containers in common areas where they collect trash and label waste containers, per the ordinance. The ordinance also requires businesses to offer adequate service for the collection of recyclables, to increase service levels if insufficient and to label containers.

The county will have the authority to enforce these requirements, including the ability to issue warnings or citations for noncompliance, according to the press release. Businesses and multifamily properties would be given the opportunity to comply before the county would take enforcement action, the release said.

Putting organic waste to better use can help feed people in need, create compost for healthier soils and create energy through anaerobic digestion, according to the release. Diverting organics from the trash reduces emissions of greenhouse gases, especially methane generated from the decomposition of organic materials in landfills, the release said.

“Organic materials are a resource, not waste,” Public Works Committee Chair Mike Opat said in the release. “This is the next step in the evolution of how we deal with our garbage.”