Master Recycler/Composter newsletter spring 2018

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master recycler composter newsletter

Master Recycler/Composter refresher session

Tuesday, June 19 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the East Side Co-op community room, 2551 Central Ave NE in Minneapolis

If you've taken the MRC course in past years and are looking for an update on what is and isn't recyclable or compostable, join us at the upcoming refresher session. During this session, we'll review what goes in the bin, discuss changes to Hennepin County’s recycling and organics collection programs in the past few years, and answer your recycling questions.

If you plan to attend, please RSVP to Food and beverages will be available for purchase at the Co-op café and store.

Welcome to all our new MRCs from the spring 2018 training!

Our most recent MRCs completed their training course in May. Congrats and welcome to the program!

Spring 2018 Master Recycler/Composter course

Payback project highlights

MRCs join forces to organize collection in Bloomington

At the end of 2016, the City of Bloomington moved to organized residential waste collection. This means that instead of residents hiring haulers on their own, city-licensed haulers now have assigned zones that they service.

The vote to organize was a long process that started years before it was realized. Several of our MRCs earned their payback hours organizing and advocating for this change. Lisa Burkhart, an MRC and Bloomington resident, shares her experience of the process below.

Advocating for change

In the spring 2012, several graduates of the Master Recycler/Composter program started a focused effort to encourage the City of Bloomington to move to organized collection for trash and recycling services. At that time, there were at least seven haulers providing service in Bloomington, and residents were free to choose their hauler. This open collection model meant that between trash, recycling and yard waste, many residential Bloomington streets had up to 21 trucks on collection day.

Partnering with the Bloomington Sustainability Coalition, we attended city council meetings and in-person meetings with city council members and city staff members. We also wrote letters to the editor and recruited Bloomington residents to attend meetings before the council made its decision. We had to start almost from scratch when three of the city councilmember positions turned over mid-stream. It was not an easy road, but we persisted for over three years.

Getting approval and working through controversy

The city council approved organized collection in December 2015. Many residents were opposed to the change as they did not want to give up the freedom to choose their hauler. Haulers were also opposed. A lawsuit from several Bloomington residents challenged the council decision in spring 2016, but this was dismissed by a judge. In October 2016, organized collection started in Bloomington with the haulers working together to divide up the city based on their previous market share.

Lessons learned and ripple effects

To move the process along, it was important to work within the system and find those in position of influence that would work as advocates.

There were several positive "ripple effects" associated with our efforts. One could make a case that the effort to organize collection in Bloomington was a contributing factor to the establishment of the Sustainability Commission at the city council level as well as the recent addition of organics recycling drop off services for Bloomington residents.

Eco Spirits at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church successfully plan a nearly zero waste event

Not too long ago, members at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis would throw away about 1,000 Styrofoam cups every Sunday. But with a commitment to sustainability led by the church's Eco Spirits - a group that several MRCs are involved with - the congregation has made many positive changes to reduce waste and increase recycling and composting.

A recent success was hosting a three-day event attended by 1,500 people where 97 percent of waste was recycled or composted. Efforts to green up the annual Cabaret fundraiser, which involves food, music and drinks, initially focused on managing food waste. Over time, the focus has expanded to evaluating everything they purchase to ensure things can be reused, composted or recycled.

Transitioning to a green event involved considering all aspects of the event - including the food and beverages served, the lighting and staging, and decorations. Overall, the event planners found that by taking time to do careful and mindful planning, the transition was actually pretty easy. And they've had some amazing success - the 2018 event created only 38 pounds of trash.

Read more about their efforts in a recent article in the National Catholic Reporter, or watch a video recap

St. Joan of Arc Eco Spirits video recap

Newly certified MRCs

Congratulations to the following MRCs on completing their payback hours:

  • Chris Hoffman (fall 2017)
  • Wendy Carlson (Heath) (spring 2017)
  • Stephen Peterson (fall 2017)
  • Laurie Kuduk (fall 2017)
  • Kristin Drews (spring 2017)
  • Jill Englund (spring 2017)
  • Deanna Kelly (spring 2016)
  • Bobbie Erichsen (spring 2017)
  • Andrea Siegel (spring 2017)
  • Molly Olson (spring 2017)
  • Toni D’Ermo (fall 2016)
  • Lucinda Anderson (fall 2014)
  • Kathryn Nelson (spring 2014)
  • LuAnn Johnson (spring 2014)

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 at the bottom of to report your hours, or email an update of what you are up to, and we’ll take care of the rest!

On the road to zero waste landfilled

Revising the county's recycling ordinance

Hennepin County is in the process of revising its recycling ordinance (ordinance #13 solid waste source separation) to require cities and some businesses to participate in organics recycling and make updates to the requirements for multifamily recycling.

From December 2017 through April 2018, county staff engaged city representatives, trade associations, waste haulers, property managers, businesses and the broader community to seek input on the ordinance language. A report that summarizes the public engagement activities and key findings is now available.

The feedback summarized in the report is being used to draft the ordinance language. The public will be able to review and comment on the draft ordinance language later this summer. The board will consider the action and hold a public hearing prior to adoption of the ordinance revisions in the fall.

Updates on the ordinance revision process will be posted at, or you can sign up to receive email updates. 


Recycling progress report  

Recycling progress report

An updated recycling progress report that summarizes the county’s progress toward meeting its recycling goals in 2017 is now available. This edition of the report wraps up the waste management strategies developed in the 2012 Solid Waste Management Master Plan and outlines a vision to move forward to reach the goal of recycling and composting 75 percent of waste by 2030.

The recycling and composting rate in the county has hovered around 50 percent for the past three years. The 2018 Master Plan strategies going forward will continue programs that have proven results, such as school and multifamily recycling, as well as further developing new, creative programs like the zero waste challenge and food waste prevention efforts.

However, to reach our goals, the plan includes an increased focus on organics recycling. New strategies include considering organics requirements for cities and some businesses as well as supporting the development of infrastructure to manage more organic waste.

Zero Waste Challange recap

Shopping haul

Recently 35 households – a total of 118 adults and children – completed the second round of the Zero Waste Challenge and reported successes in reducing waste and improving recycling.

Participating households cut the amount of waste they generated per person per day by one third. On average, participating households recycled or composted 66 percent of waste generated in their households, which is significantly higher than the countywide diversion rate of 45 percent.

Most of the participating households use some form of composting – curbside collection, drop-off, backyard, or a combination of methods – to achieve those high recycling rates.

This year’s challenge families took a wide variety of actions on their journeys toward zero waste, including some of the following:

Improving recycling: Taking organics to a drop-off site, adding backyard composting, and learning about wish-cycling (and stopping!).

Recycling bin set up
Reusable water bottle and sandwich bag

Eliminating disposables: Using steel straws instead of disposable ones, switching to reusable feminine products, sewing reusable sandwich bags, and using handkerchiefs, coffee mugs, cloth napkins and reusable produce bags. 

Preventing waste in the first place: Making beeswax wrap, learning to cook more from scratch, getting chickens, organizing the fridge, shopping in bulk, and cutting back on online shopping.

Beeswax wrap
Kids involved in Zero Waste Challenge

Getting everyone involved: Many households commented about how involved children were, such as one family’s two-year-old who already knows when something is or is not compostable. 

Registration for the next round of the challenge, which will run September 2018 through April 2019, will open at the end of July.

In the news

Important links


Contact us

Carolyn Collopy, Master Recycler/Composter Coordinator


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