Minneapolis Green-Lights Its Organics Recycling Program Plan

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Minnesota’s largest city is embracing the municipal composting movement, which is gaining steam in many U.S. cities.

The city of Minneapolis announced this week that it would formally launch a curbside compost pickup program beginning this summer.

A small number of cities and towns, most notably in California and Washington state, have started similar programs in recent years. Most curbside composting programs have been jump-started in smaller localities, though San Francisco has been successfully running its own program for nearly 20 years.

In New York City, which has a pilot project underway, Mayor Bill de Blasio even made composting a part of his public outreach campaign last year.

The city of Seattle has taken its composting program one step further by announcing a plan on Tuesday to “publicly shame” residents who don’t comply with its composting mandates with a $1 fine noted in the form of a large red sticker placed on a resident’s garbage can.

But Minneapolis is just in the beginning stages of rolling out its program.

This week, Minnesota Public Radio reported on some of the specifics of the city's pilot program, which will initially reach about 25 percent of residents before a wider adoption takes effect in 2016:

Curbside composting is different from traditional yard composting of food waste because more items can be composted, including paper towels, pizza boxes or even chopsticks. Items like oils, fats or yard waste won't be accepted under the program.

A 2013 study by the city estimated that around 40 percent of residents would actively participate in the program, which will be paid for by a new $3.40 monthly trash charge added to each resident’s garbage bill.

The Minneapolis City Council has made a number of efforts to honor Mayor Betsy Hodges’ pledge to transform Minneapolis into a “zero waste” city.

The Star Tribune reported on Monday that two council members recently traveled to Cuba to learn about that country’s approach to composting, urban agriculture and other techniques that can be used to reduce the environmental footprint of city residents.

“Seeing what we could do to have really good controls on allowing composting businesses in the city and also hearing what farmers are actually doing—that, in particular, was fascinating,” Ben Somogyi, a council policy aide, told the newspaper.

The new composting pickup program is expected to save several thousand tons of organic waste that are currently sent to an incinerator in the city. Instead, the organic waste would be transformed into fertile soil through the composing process.

“Curbside organics recycling is the next step toward a Zero Waste Minneapolis,” Hodges said in an announcement last August. “It’s something residents voted for, and the pilots have been incredibly successful so far.”

The city of Boise, Idaho, announced a similar plan last week, estimating that its own composing plan could recycle an estimated 1,400 tons of trash each month. The Idaho capital’s Public Works Department has formed an advisory committee that will meet over the next few months to tour landfills and decide whether a composting plan would be feasible enough for widespread adoption by city residents.

“Curbside composting would definitely be an advantage to the community, in that it makes your landfill last longer," Ted Hutchison, the city’s Deputy Solid Waste Director, told KTVB-TV.