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Why is recycling falling in St. Paul, but rising in Minneapolis?

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There has been a surprise drop in recycling levels in St. Paul, despite the introduction of a new system making it easier for residents.

Figures reported by the Pioneer Press reveal that 15,800 tons of recyclables were picked up from curbsides in 2014, down from the 16,100 tons recycled in 2013.

It follows the introduction of "single sort" recycling in St. Paul in April 2014, designed to make it easier for people to recycle their waste.

This is in marked contrast to Minneapolis, where recycling increased by 29 percent after it introduced single sort, according to the Star Tribune.

"We absolutely hope to and expected to see an increase ... In the end, we were pretty flat," Kris Hageman, the city's environmental coordinator, told the Pioneer Press. "We were very happy with the increase in plastics (which rose 82 percent), but we saw some dips in other materials."

In total, 34 percent of Minneapolis waste was diverted from landfill in 2014, either through recycling, composting, or repurposing. In contrast, St. Paul's diversion rate was 22 percent.

So why was there such a difference between the two metro giants?

A tale of two cities

The answer, according to MPR, could be down to the switch in recycling systems.

Both cities have recently gone to a "single sort" system, which means that households can put all their recyclables into a single bin, and it gets sorted out at processing centers.

But Minneapolis previously had an "extremely complicated" system where residents had to sort recyclables into nine different containers, whereas St. Paul just had to sort them into two.

This means the simplification to single-sort has been much more noticeable in Minneapolis, which may explain why its rate increased so dramatically, whereas for St. Paul there wasn't much of a difference between dual-sort and single-sort.

MPR also suggests that Minneapolis' investment in new recycling cans for city residents has also had an impact, making it easier for people to recycle, compared to the smaller, "old-fashioned" carts St. Paul residents have to use.

It's worth noting as well that Minneapolis currently accepts more recyclable materials than St. Paul.

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