Master Recycler/Composter Newsletter Winter 2018

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master recycler composter newsletter

Happy New Year! We hope you had a joyful low-waste holiday season.

If you have any hours from the past year that you forgot to report, please submit them by January 15 so we can finalize our 2017 numbers. The hours reporting form is now located at the bottom of the web page.

Hennepin County recycling study reveals improvements needed at apartment and condo buildings

Apartment recycling

In August, Hennepin County completed a waste study to assess how well apartment and condo buildings were recycling. The study looked at the recycling diversion rate, contamination levels in the recycling, and the composition of what was being discarded as trash.

Apartment buildings have low recycling rates and high contamination rates

The study found that 13.2 percent of everything being discarded by apartment and condo residents is being diverted for recycling. This is significantly lower than the countywide recycling rate of 41 percent.

There is also a lot of contamination in the recycling. About 24 percent of what was put in the recycling was actually trash.

There are a lot of opportunities for improvement

Analysis of the trash found that only 30 percent was truly trash. The remaining 70 percent was material that likely could be diverted. This included organics (33 percent), recycling (23 percent), bulky/reusable household goods (8 percent), textiles (7 percent) and hazardous waste or electronics (2 percent).

Of everything being discarded in the trash and recycling, only 33 percent of what is recyclable is being diverted for recycling. 

Service levels are not adequate

The study also found that typical service levels may not be adequate to collect the amount of recycling generated at apartment and condo buildings. On average, properties provided half the amount of service capacity for recycling as they did for trash.

Conclusions and next steps

The results of the study highlighted several conclusions and next steps:

  • Contamination of the recycling at apartment and condo properties is high. Educating residents on what is recyclable and better labeling on recycling and trash containers will be a continued focus of Hennepin County when working with properties.
  • There is a significant amount of divertible material in the trash. Hennepin County will continue to work with properties to increase their recycling service, add organics recycling, and help residents donate usable household goods and properly dispose of household hazardous waste.
  • Service levels may be inadequate for capturing all of the recyclables generated at these properties. The county will emphasize increasing recycling service at properties to establish a recycling to trash service ratio of at least 1:1.

Volunteer to improve recycling at your apartment or condo

MRCs that live at apartment or condo buildings can help by talking to their property managers about improving diversion at their buildings. The county offers a wide range of resources at no cost. See what's available.

New study examines the types of food waste and how to rescue it

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently released a new set of food waste reports and case studies as a follow up to their groundbreaking 2012 report, Wasted: How America Is Losing up to 40 Percent of its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill.

The new reports focus on where food is being wasted, what type of food is going to waste, how it can be prevented, how much surplus food can be redirected to people in need, and how cities can tackle the challenge of wasted food most effectively. The infographic below summarizes some of the findings.

Lifting lid on wasted food infographic
Source: Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC)

Volunteer to rescue food

Food rescue

Hennepin County is piloting a new food rescue effort to collect small quantities of prepared food and redistribute it to those in need.

MRCs can earn payback hours by volunteering as food runners, which involves picking up the donated food and delivering it to meal programs. We also created a Food Donation Guidelines brochure (PDF) to help businesses understand their options. 

To volunteer, contact Nancy Lo at 

Payback opportunity: rescuing food at the Super Bowl

MRCs are needed to pick up extra food from events before and after the Super Bowl from restaurants, caterers, and event centers and deliver it quickly and efficiently to local food shelves, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Instead of that perfectly edible food going to waste, it will be given to local hungry neighbors.

Volunteers are needed for two to three days between February 1 and February 7. Volunteers will attend a one-hour kick-off training at the end of January. Sign up by January 15.

If interested, contact Second Harvest Heartland Volunteer Coordinator Paige Stein at or 651-209-7953

Newly certified MRCs

Congratulations to the following MRCs on completing their 30 hours of volunteer payback!

  • Barb Swanson (spring 2014)
  • Carla Inderrieden (fall 2016)
  • Catherine Pearson (spring 2015)
  • Esther Seha (spring 2017)
  • Jolene Sullivan Warnke (fall 2016)
  • Marita Streit (fall 2016)
  • Mary Ahler (spring 2016)
  • Nina Richie (spring 2016)

Activities that these MRCs volunteered for to earn their hours include:

  • Coordinating low-waste events, including the May Day Parade, the Linden Hills Festival, the St Louis Parktacular and the Pratt School Ice Cream Social
  • Educating residents at events such as Open Feasts, the Green Gifts Fair and the Golden Valley Farmers Market
  • Improving waste diversion at apartment buildings
  • Assisting at Fix It Clinics
  • Collecting materials such as holiday lights, keys and plastic bags from members of their community for recycling

Working on your payback? Report your hours!

Many of you are doing great things in your communities to further waste reduction in Hennepin County (thank you!) but have not reported your hours. Please use our online form to report your hours or email an update of what you are up to, and we’ll take care of the rest.

In the news

Important links

Contact us

Carolyn Collopy, Master Recycler/Composter Coordinator


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