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One-sort program ups Minneapolis recycling; city still lags behind

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Recycling increased in Minneapolis a year after the introduction of the one-sort garbage collection system, official figures show – but it still lags behind the rest of the state.

A presentation made before the city's Transport and Public Works Committee Tuesday showed total recycling weight rose by 25 percent in the 12 months up to June this year, after the city switched to a single-sort system that allows residents to put all recyclables into the same bin.

This is below the 30-60 percent rise in recycling weight the city had predicted when implementing the new system, but MPR News said members of the city council were pleased with the progress.

"It's the best thing that's happened in a long time, at least in my household, because I had the Tuesday where I had to sort everything out, didn't have enough trash bags, it was terrible," Council Member Blong Yang said, according to MPR.

The total amount of waste recycled in by city residents hit 28,784 tons in 12 months, a 29 percent rise on the 22,350 tons recycled in 2009-10, the presentation revealed. It now means that 25 percent of all city waste is recycled.

As a result, 16 percent less is being sent to energy-from-waste centers, while the cost of processing waste has also fallen to $49 per ton – lower than the $60-$80 the city predicted, according to the Star Tribune.

One of the big issues of the previous system was the number of injuries being caused to workmen who had to sort out multiple recycling containers during the freezing winters.

The report notes the total compensation claims from workers has reduced by 62 percent compared to 2012, and just 12 percent of injuries suffered on the job were recycling related, compared to 33 percent the year before.

A map shown in the presentation reveals residents living in southwest Minneapolis are the most likely to recycle, with those living in the north the least likely.

In April this year, Eureka Recycling, the contractor for the city of St. Paul, also moved to a single-sort system.

City playing catch-up

The city tested the one-sort system toward the end of 2012, before rolling out the program fully in July of this year.

The hope is it will boost recycling rates to 32.6 percent of total waste by 2017, MPR says, after a period of years that saw rates tumble to just 16.5 percent in 2011.

The Pioneer Press notes city authorities had experienced issues encouraging the area's fastest-growing populations – renters, immigrants and single parents – to recycle prior to the introduction of one-sort.

Although Minneapolis' recycling rate has increased to 25 percent recycling and 75 percent trash, it's still lagging way behind the recycling efforts of the rest of the state.

The most recent figures published by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) put the state's recycling rate at 45.6 percent in 2012.

Not only has the city of Minneapolis fallen behind the rest of the state, it has also been dragging down the wider Metro area, which had a rate of 46.6 percent that same year.

Single sort


the state

The move to single-sort recycling in Minneapolis and St. Paul generated plenty of headlines when the move was tested and then rolled-out, but it has been the most common form of recycling collection in the rest of the state for a number of years now, according to PCA spokesman Tim Farnam.

A 2012 PCA survey of 340 cities, covering two-thirds of the state's population, showed 67 percent of the 188 cities with contracted waste collection services used single-sort recycling. Just over 20 percent were still using a service where people sort their recycling into separate containers.

The proportion of single-sort cities will be higher now, considering the figures didn't include more recent additions like St. Paul and Roseville.

"We do know that source-separated collection is now far less common than it was five or 10 years ago, and that they are primarily in smaller communities outside the metro area," Farnam told BringMeTheNews.

"So, even as far back as 2012, most residents in the state had access to single-stream recycling or dual-stream recycling, where recycling is split into two groups, usually paper and containers, bottles and cans," he added.

Not every person is living in an area where their trash is collected through city contracts.

Some 40 percent of cities that responded to the PCA survey do not directly offer collection, and instead citizens choose their own hauler and subscribe for a trash and recycling collection service, as is the case in Duluth and Rochester.

The form of recycling collection will therefore be dependent on the hauler, but the PCA study concluded that the vast majority of people who get their waste collected in this way will have access to one-sort recycling.

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