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Just how much waste from the State Fair gets recycled and reused?

What does it take to clean up after 1.8 million people during 12 days at Minnesota’s greatest get-together?

We went behind the scenes with the State Fair’s Sanitation Department on Friday to find out.

The 24-hour, non-stop operation starts the Wednesday morning before the fair begins, and runs until the morning after the fair is over on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

“Our goal is to each year get a little bit better,” Sanitation Manager Cory Franzmeier told BringMeTheNews about the recycling and sanitation at the fair.

They added 300 recycling bins this year, bringing the total to 750. That’s compared to 1,000 trash cans scattered throughout the grounds.

“The ratio is almost 1:1 now,” said Franzmeier.

Just how much waste are we talking?

State Fair compost (Maria Herd)

The food compost from Sept. 1 at the State Fair. Food compost consists mostly of corn cobs, lemon peels, banana peels and potato peels. (Photo: Maria Herd)

So what exactly gets recycled at the fair? And how much of it?

According to Franzmeier, last year there were:

  • 191 tons of cardboard
  • 66 tons of food waste that was turned into mulch
  • 139,000 pounds of grease was made into biodiesel fuel
  • 4,500 tons of manure that was composted for farm fertilizer
  • 36 tons of glass, plastic and aluminum

In addition, construction and metal materials are recycled. But the Sanitation Department does not keep track of how much of those materials are recycled during the State Fair alone – just for the Minnesota State Fairgrounds over the entire year.

Where the waste goes

This is where some of that product goes around the Twin Cities metro area:

State fair waste map

Where some of the State Fair’s leftovers go. (Photo: Josette Elieff. Map via Google Maps, emojis via EmojiOne)

The sanitation workers

Sanitation workers at the State Fair (Photo: Maria Herd)

More sorting. (Photo: Maria Herd)

Adam, a 21-year-old sanitation worker, spoke to BringMeTheNews on Friday about his work sorting through recycling at the State Fair.

Adam said he loves working at the Sanitation Department so much that he has done it for six years in a row. His goal is to work in recycling at the fair for another four, so that he can have that decade of experience on his resume.

He likes “getting more work experience, meeting new people and training other people on the job.”

Adam is one of 12 people (many of them high schoolers) taking part in a special needs job experience program through South Washington County School District. According to Franzmeier, the program gives them the opportunity to apply for their first job, practice interview skills, get hired and gain work experience.

“It’s such a good program. The kids are so excited to work here,” Franzmeier said.

But one of the most exciting parts of sorting through the recycling for Adam is finding what other people have thrown away. Last year, he found a total of 40 dollars and a beer tap.

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