MRC update: Support recycling by recycling right

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master recycler composter newsletter

How to support recycling now

Recycling at home

Recycling has been in the news a lot lately with shifts in markets and policy changes in China. This has left many Minnesotans wondering what is happening to the recycling placed in their bins.

Master Recycler/Composters play an important role in educating residents, and your help is needed now. Whether you are tabling at an event or casually discussing recycling with family and friends, use the following talking points to educate others on the current state of recycling and what they can to do support recycling.

Recycled material is important to manufacturers in Minnesota

Recycling is important to Minnesota’s economy. More than 260 Minnesota companies use recycled materials to manufacture their products. Minnesota’s value-added recycling manufacturers employ about 18,000 people, and these companies generate approximately $3.2 billion in wages and $665 million in federal and local tax revenue. Overall, recycling adds nearly $8.5 billion to Minnesota's economy.

When it comes to recyclable materials, Minnesota is better positioned than other parts of the country because our public and private sectors have made strategic investments in recycling over the last 30-plus years. For example, using state-of-the-art sorting equipment at processing facilities has kept contamination rates low. Plus, Minnesota has focused on developing local markets to manufacture products with recycled content wherever possible. 

Recycling markets are cyclical. The current international market situation has effected pricing dramatically. However, recycling prices have always fluctuated up and down, and our current situation is no different.

Recycling is not free, but it is the most cost effective way to handle our waste and has tremendous social, economic, and environmental benefits.

How China’s new recycling policies effect Minnesota citizens, recyclers, and businesses

Until recently, China has been the world’s largest importer of recycled materials. China imported about 40 percent of the United States’ recycled material.

China was hungry for the material, which meant U.S. recyclers didn't have to spend extra money to make cleaner bales. China consistently paid above market prices for material, even if bales of paper and plastic contained considerable amounts of trash.   

Minnesota recyclers do better than most other states, producing paper and plastic bales with 2 to 7 percent contamination rates. Other parts of the country have 30 to 40 percent contamination rates in some bales.   

In 2013, China announced an initiative called Green Fence. It warned U.S. recycling exporters that China no longer wanted bales with high contamination rates. China wanted the recycled material, but not the trash. Chinese officials began to inspect bales and import licenses.

Since then, China has enacted polices that restrict imports of most recycled material. China has banned almost all imports of unprocessed plastic, set an acceptable bale contamination rate at 0.5 percent, and have enacted expensive tariffs on OCC, recycled paper, and other recyclable materials.  

China’s policies have resulted in domestic markets being flooded with recycled materials. This has created an excess supply for the domestic market and caused prices to plummet.

Minnesotans need to continue to recycle, but make sure to recycle right

Minnesotans wondering about shifting world markets need to stay the course — keep recycling, but recycle right.  This, in part, means putting only the correct materials in curbside bins.

While Minnesotans do a better job than most parts of the country in properly sorting these materials, contamination in recycling containers is a huge problem. Too much trash still finds its way to processing facilities, adding inefficiency and reducing profitability for these facilities. 

Minnesota state law prohibits materials separated and collected for recycling from being trashed. Your recyclables are getting recycled!

How can residents help?

  • Remember the two Rs that come before recycle – reduce and reuse. Do what you can to avoid packaging in the first place. 
  • Continue to recycle, but avoid “wish-cycling.” If you don’t know if something is recyclable, find out. Check with your city, county, or waste hauler to see what is acceptable and not acceptable. When in doubt, find out or throw it out.  
  • Many items that can't go in your curbside cart are collected for recycling in stores, at county recycling facilities, or in special collections. Check your county or city website. 

Get more information

See our feature on the current state of recycling and important materials to keep out of the recycling cart. Or check out the Hennepin Environment Facebook page where we've been sharing posts throughout the month featuring items that don't go in the recycling cart and offering suggestions for what to do with them instead.

No plastic bags in recycling binWhat do to with plastic bags graphic

Payback project spotlight

Implementing a recycling program at FamilyWise Services

MRC Bobbie Erichsen recently developed a recycling program for the Minneapolis location of FamilyWise Services, a non-profit organization in the Twin Cities. The location has about 75 staff including administrative staff, social workers, and daycare providers. The building also has a few public spaces.

The 12-month project was split into three stages: design and implementation, education, and audit/follow up.


In the design phase, Bobbie met with staff, toured the facility, gathered information about current waste management and business operation, and conducted an audit of current bin placement. She then applied for a Hennepin County business recycling grant and met with a county recycling specialist to figure out exactly what they needed.

She also worked with the hauler to help clarify the recycling collection system. The building currently had both a dumpster and cart for recycling, which was confusing and impacted participation. The hauler removed the cart, leaving just a dumpster for recycling collection. This made the program more clear and saved the organization some money.


Before the bins arrived, Bobbie ordered signs through Hennepin County to match the bins they were getting through the grant. In anticipation of the roll-out of the bins, she built a marketing campaign for the building with signage that explained the changes.

On the day of the roll-out, a Hennepin County recycling specialist conducted a lunch-and-learn for staff that covered what is recyclable. She also used the lunch-and-learn as a chance to recruit employees for a green team.

Follow up

Bobbie checks in quarterly with the staff to see if they had any questions about the recycling program. She also coordinated a follow-up lunch-and-learn.
The last part of the project will be to report the results of the grant to Hennepin County in May.

Registration open for fall MRC

The fall MRC class will be held on Tuesdays starting October 23 in Minneapolis. Class details and registration are now available at Spread the word to any family or friends who may be interested!

Provide feedback on MRCs effort to create zero waste grocery store

MRC Nathan Crymble is working on starting Minnesota’s first zero waste grocery store, and he is currently seeking feedback on this effort. Take their survey to provide feedback!

Bag something awesome: Choose to Reuse

2019 Choose to Reuse coupons now available

CTR coupon book 2018

Choose to Reuse coupons help you get great deals on quality products, support local businesses, and protect the environment.

Coupons are valid August 1 through October 31 at 59 local retailers that rent, repair, resell, consign and exchange used goods.

There are several ways to get free Choose to Reuse coupons, including through the Chinook Book App, ordering a print version, or picking one up at a participating retail location, Hennepin County service center or library, and at Three Rivers Park District locations. Learn more.

If you would like larger quantities to distribute, contact Kristin Pierskalla at We also have a newsletter article, social media posts, and images are available to promote the Choose to Reuse coupons.

Update on revising the county’s recycling ordinance

Hennepin County is in the process of revising its recycling ordinance to include new requirements.

Key provisions being considered include:  

  • Requirements for businesses that generate large quantities of food waste to implement food waste recycling by 2020  
  • Requirements for cities to offer curbside organics recycling service to residents by 2022 
  • Updates to the multifamily recycling requirements to add service level standards and education and labeling requirements. 
  • Requirements for businesses to meet: the state recycling requirements, service level standards, and labeling requirements.

Draft revision and public feedback

The county released the draft revisions to the ordinance in July and accepted public comment through August 17. The county received about 300 comments. Staff reviewed the comments and are making edits to the ordinance based on this feedback. A report summarizing the feedback and an updated draft of the revised ordinance are now available. 

Public hearing

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners set a public hearing for Tuesday, October 2 at 1:30 p.m. to receive testimony from the public on the proposed revisions. The hearing will be held in A-2400 Hennepin County Government Center Board Room, 300 South Sixth Street in Minneapolis.

Learn more and stay informed

On the revising recycling ordinance #13 web page, you can see the draft ordinance language, review a summary of the first round of public engagement from December 2017 through April 2018, and sign up for email updates on the process.

Follow the adventures of Recyclo at Hennepin County libraries

Recyclo display

An educational display aimed at promoting literacy and recycling has been rotating through various Hennepin County libraries this summer and fall. The display follows the story of Recyclo, a superhero who teaches youth about the power of recycling all while fending off villains like the evil Lord Waste-A-Ton and Garbage Giant.

The last chance to see the display is at the Hennepin County Library Augsburg Park in Richfield until September 30.

Newly certified MRCs

Congratulations to the following MRCs on completing their payback hours:

  • Angela Rodgers (spring 2013)
  • Ben Weidmann (fall 2017)
  • Claire Sorvari Graupmann (fall 2017)
  • Lois Schadewald (spring 2016)
  • Louise Hotka (fall 2017)
  • Nicole Smiley (fall 2015)

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!

Payback opportunities

There are a lot of opportunities to get involved and earn payback hours this fall! Here are some opportunities that have recently been posted to the Facebook group:

Monitor waste stations at Party in the Prairie

Volunteers are needed to help with waste bin monitoring at the Party in the Prairie at the Richardson Nature Center in Bloomington on Saturday, September 22. Shifts are from 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. This is a family event with live music, food trucks and kids activities. Volunteers will have direct interaction with event participants and staff. To volunteer, contact Monica Rauchwarter

Facilitate the Minneapolis bean bag game at Open Streets

Volunteers are needed to lead the Minneapolis Solid Waste & Recycling bean bag game at upcoming Open Streets events! Minneapolis Recycling staff, Laura Horner, will be with you answering questions and engaging residents at the adjacent educational table while volunteers lead the bean bag game. It’s a lot of fun!

Upcoming events are Nicollet Open Streets on Sunday, September 23 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and University Open Streets on Sunday, September 30 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteers don't need to stay the entire time. To volunteer, contact Laura at or 612-673-3318.


Monitor waste stations at the Children’s Water Festival

Volunteers are needed to monitor waste bins and educate students during lunch on what is compostable and recyclable at the Children’s Water Festival on Wednesday, September 26 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Volunteers are needed from about 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. To volunteers, send your name, email address, phone number, affiliation, and volunteer interest to

Minneapolis Litter Be Gone citywide pick up

The first Minneapolis Litter Be Gone citywide litter pickup is happening October 4 through 13. Pick up litter on your own or organize a team of friends or neighbors. 

Monitor waste stations at Autumn Woods Classic

Volunteers are needed to help monitor waste stations at the Autumn Woods Classic on Saturday, October 13 at Elm Creek Park Reserve. Volunteers are needed from 7:30 a.m. to noon. Help the Three Rivers Park District achieve their zero waste event goals! To volunteer, contact Deb Vosler at

Monitor waste stations at the Green Gifts Fair

Volunteers are needed to monitor waste stations at the Green Gifts Fair on Saturday, November 17 at the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. The Green Gifts Fair is a fun and eco-friendly way to kick off the holidays, with over 85 vendors, music, food sampling, green living demos, activities for the kids, and more! There is a morning (9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), midday (noon to 3 p.m.) and afternoon shifts (2:30 to 5:30 p.m.). To volunteer, contact Crystal at

In the News

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Carolyn Collopy, Master Recycler/Composter Coordinator


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