News release: Seeking a treasure of information in the trash

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Alisa Reckinger, Environment and Energy, 612-348-4788
Maria Elena Baca, Communications, 612-348-7865

Hennepin County seeks a treasure of information in the trash

As part of a new waste study, Hennepin County is digging into residents’ garbage to learn more about what they are throwing away and what opportunities we are missing to recycle more. The study involves sorting trash into new categories that will provide better, more specific information about what could be recycled now but is not, and what opportunities need to be developed to increase recycling in the future. The effort is part of getting to our goal of recycling 75 percent of waste by 2030.

Watch a waste sort in action, find out what we’ve already learned, and see examples of the types of materials – recyclable and not recyclable – that are currently in the trash.

Thursday, May 12 at 11:30 a.m.

11:30 a.m. – Arrive, get safety equipment and view samples of materials pulled from the trash

11:45 a.m. – Media tour of waste sort

Noon – County officials and recycling experts available for interviews

County officials and experts in waste reduction and recycling will be available for interviews.

Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC), 435 North 5th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401. 

Enter the HERC Administration Building and the Visitor’s Center through the Target Field Station parking ramp. See directions.

Transit and parking information
Take the METRO Blue or Green lines to Target Field Station, or park at the Target Field Station pay ramp (enter at Fifth Ave. and Fifth St, by Caribou Coffee). Members of the media who need parking for a live-feed signal should contact Maria Baca at 612-348-7865.

Attire and safety information 
For safety reasons, visitors must wear closed-toe shoes, long pants, a hard hat, and a safety vest on the HERC's tipping floor, where the waste sort is taking place. Hats and vests will be provided. 

About the waste study
The study will examine trash from a cross-section of Minneapolis. After sorting the trash into material categories, the county's study will characterize the materials based on what already is recyclable in residential recycling programs and what materials currently go in the trash. Additionally, comparing the waste sort data to socioeconomic information from the different neighborhoods will help uncover trends in recycling behaviors that will inform future education and outreach efforts.

A secondary sort will examine the waste by “retail” categories, or where consumers buy products in a store and where waste is generated in their homes. This will answer questions such as: Are the packaging or durable goods we are buying recyclable or not? How could we create more opportunities to recycle, reduce, reuse or repair these materials? From what areas of a store and our homes are we generating a lot of trash or missing recycling opportunities? 

About recycling in Hennepin County
In 2015, 46 percent of waste generated in Hennepin County was diverted to recycling or organics recycling. The recycling rate in the county has increased steadily but slowly over the past few years. Recycling alone has increased by 5 percent since 2010.

However, significant changes in behavior and waste management methods will be needed to achieve the county’s goal of recycling 75 percent of waste by 2030. This waste study will provide a better understanding of what is still in the trash and what changes will be needed to increase recycling enough to meet our goals. 

Learn more about the county’s efforts to reduce waste and increase recycling in the 2015 Hennepin County Recycling Progress Report 

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