State says Minnesotans need to stop treating their aluminum cans like garbage

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With an exhibit made of nearly 12,000 aluminum cans, the state is sending a strong, visual message to fair goers at the Great Minnesota Get Together that they aren't doing all that great when it comes to recycling.

The Star Tribune reports that Minnesotans recycle just 40 percent of their aluminum cans. The national average is 65 percent.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's State Fair exhibit is just one part of a broader plan to double the aluminum recycling rates in Minnesota, the Strib reports. The Minnesota Legislature required the MPCA to draft a plan last spring showing how a new return-deposit program could help the rates reach 80 percent.

The MPCA is also distributing nearly 500 giant bottle-shaped collection containers to Minnesota high schools and is sponsoring Minnesota GreenCorps to spread the word that recycled aluminum cuts energy costs and creates jobs.

Here's the MPCA's press release on the program.

But skeptics say consumers might balk at paying deposits for cans of pop or beer, and Ron Pooley, the former owner and current supervisor of nonferrous metals at Mankato Iron & Metal, tells the Strib he doesn't believe the state's efforts will work for other reasons.

Minnesota’s recycling rate for cans “was almost 60 percent 10 years ago,” Pooley tells the paper. “Part of the decline is that the price of aluminum has been super depressed over the last four years. Now we pay [consumers] about 53 cents a pound. Four years ago, it was 70, maybe 80 cents a pound. That [drop] discourages people.”

The MPCA’s report on the deposits for aluminum cans is due to the Legislature on Jan. 15.

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