Posted on Nov 18, 2019

EcoEducation: Recycling is as Important as Ever

Think that since China has reduced its acceptance of recyclable waste that your efforts to recycle don't matter anymore?  The EcoClub conversation with Paul Kroening of the Hennepin County Environment and Energy Department dispelled that rumor.  In Minnesota it is illegal for sorted recyclable materials to be burned or buried.  Hennepin County has a goal to increase the percentage of our waste stream that is recycled from 50% to 75%.  Residents can help by staying informed about what can be recycled and what cannot. 


We also learned that the composition of our waste stream is changing.  The percentage of our waste that is paper has dropped by 10% (although there is an increase in cardboard) and the percentage of our waste that is plastic and organics has increased (5% increase for organics and 7% plastics). 

Organics don't decompose the same way in a modern landfill as they do in a compost pile.  In a landfill the decay happens in the absence of oxygen and therefore produces methane gas which a much more harmful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  We want organics to stay out of the landfills as much as possible.  We learned that an ordinance will take effect on January 1st, 2020 that requires businesses of certain sizes to recycle organics.  We also learned that this recycling could take different forms such as food to animals, food donations, composting and even anaerobic digestion that turns waste into natural gas.  We also learned that by January 1st, 2022 that all residents will have curbside organics available, but, in order to better ensure a clean waste stream, residents will have to opt in to participate. 

Finally, we also learned that recycling information changes and it is important for citizens to help spread the word so that we can maximize our efforts.  Here were some points that were new to us:

  • Hennepin County libraries will  no longer be a drop off location for batteries.  There have been incidents of fire due to the inclusion of lithium batteries and so this type of waste will only be accepted at drop off facilities. 
  • You CAN recycle pizza boxes - just not the parts that have food or grease on them. 
  • Putting recycling in bags can mean that the contents are not reviewed and go into the trash.  You can collect your recyclables in bags, but then dump them out so they are loose in the bin.  
  • Putting items in recycling that don't belong there can hinder the recycling process for things that can be recycled.  Using the recycling guide can help.   
  • Hennepin County provides some great FREE resources for businesses, apartment buildings, schools, and residents.  
    • Favorite free resource for residents:  window cling to put on your car to remind you to take those reusable bags when you go shopping!
Twin Cities Rotary Eco Club members learning a lot from Hennepin County Recycling Manager, Paul Kroening.