Here we go once again with all the big recycling hits from the Twin Cities metro area and beyond. With lots of ways to reduce, reuse and recycle just about anything in your home already, we’re always looking for the next big hit in recycling. You’ve already taken steps to avoid wish cycling and you know what to throw. Let’s look towards the new trend in recycling that is sweeping the nation and helping keep valuable resources from ending up in landfills and incinerators. It’s time to recycle organics!
A Household Name
You’re probably hearing more about organics recycling. Options are more plentiful now. It’s the newest area of waste reduction and it’s evolving. Curbside collection is available in a growing number of metro area cities including Minneapolis and St. Louis Park via separate carts or compostable bags. Several counties also offer drop-off locations for organics recycling including Hennepin, Dakota, Ramsey, Anoka, and Carver Counties. If you aren’t sure if you have an organics recycling option, ask your county!
Composting on a Grand Scale
Backyard composting is a great green habit to have. It keeps lots of items out of your garbage can and turns them into a valuable resource for your garden. Organics recycling does the same thing, but on a larger scale, which creates an even bigger impact. In Minneapolis, 43 percent of eligible homes signed up for the organics recycling program and diverted 4,000 tons of organic matter to be converted to compost.
A Breakdown of the Breakdown
A lot happens to your organics after they leave your home. Organics that are collected or dropped off (in special compostable bags) are collected by haulers and brought to an organics composting facility. They are mixed with items like leaves or woodchips to get just the right mixture. Naturally occurring microbes then go to work, heating the mixture and killing bacteria and germs. That heat is the reason you can put items in your organics recycling that you can’t compost at home, like meats, dairy products and bones.
The process takes about six months to create a valuable dirt-like substance. It gets bagged and sold to consumers, contractors and more. Compost gets used in erosion control at construction sites and by landscapers and contractors to meet topsoil requirements.
Food waste makes up a large percentage of our garbage, but with organics recycling, we can turn it into something valuable. Organics recycling takes composting a step further with the inclusion of more products as well as the non-recyclable cardboard and paper products like food soiled napkins and pizza boxes. Some good tips for setting up your home include adding a specific organics container or a countertop bin to be used with compostable bags. Be sure your bags are truly compostable by looking for the BPI or Cedar Grove labels.
Recycle with Confidence
Be confident that your items can indeed be processed at the facilities and “when in doubt, throw it out.” One of the biggest culprits is plastic-lined paper like coffee cups and paper boats for food. Look for the word “compostable” on packaging. If the item is shiny or waxy, it’s probably lined with plastic and should be thrown out. The problem with plastic lined items like boxes from the freezer is that they contaminate and degrade the value of the compost. Processing facilities may reject a load if it’s contaminated.
You can make a huge impact by participating in organics recycling! About one-third of our waste is food or compostable materials. If these items go to landfills, they create methane and their nutrients are wasted. If they go into organics recycling, they become an asset.
It may take time to get in a routine and know what is acceptable, but you may be surprised to see the volume of your trash go down. Thanks to curbside or drop-off options, you can continue your organics recycling efforts in the winter months, even if you don’t do backyard winter composting. Participate in this great recycling trend to help make a major contribution to the environment and your community!
Beginning in 2018, the Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board will discontinue monthly blogs and e-newsletters. As always, questions about recycling may be directed to county and city recycling staff.