Conservation Minnesota

How to Improve Recycling in MN

For decades Minnesota’s recycling community has created aggressive goals and then failed to meet them when it comes to the state’s recycling rates of beverage containers. The most recent occurred in 2007 when the Minnesota Solid Waste Policy report recommended that Minnesota set and reach a goal of recycling 80% of our beverage containers by Jan 1, 2012. Despite the recommendation, the state’s recycling rate has remained stuck on 35 percent.

South View Middle School 6th Grade Teacher & Environmental Group Advisor Steve Freese stands in front of the lunchroom recycling & composting receptacle.

South View Middle School 6th Grade Teacher & Environmental Group Advisor Steve Freese stands in front of the lunchroom recycling & composting receptacle.

Over the past two years, we have held recycling drives in nine communities to demonstrate how a can and bottle deposit could work to actually move the needle on the state’s recycling rates.  We offered the communities ten cents per can and bottle they collected over a set time period.  It became clear that when there is a financial incentive to recycle, people begin to notice how many cans and bottles there are floating around out there.  The communities took the money we provided to help fund tree and garden planting projects as well as school lunchroom waste reduction programs.

This year we are working with the Edina South View Middle School’s Environmental Group, and we have set their goal at collecting 10,000 plastic & aluminum beverage containers during school lunches.  Just this past Monday, the students surpassed their goal by collecting 10,340 containers!  Next week, we will hold an special event to celebrate the students’ accomplishment and present them with a $1,000 donation. Their plan for the money is to buy a hydration station so that students can cut their dependence on disposable water bottles.

The projects were all created to bring attention to the Recycling Refund Act, a soon-to-be introduced bill in front of the Minnesota Legislature.  It works so well because each bottle or can is worth 10 cents.  Return it the next time you go to the grocery store, and you get ten cents back.  Donate it to a local school or non-profit, and they raise money by recycling.  Or, leave it in your curbside recycling, and the 10 cents helps support local city and county recycling programs.  It’s your choice!

In Michigan where a similar law is in place, the statewide recycling rate for their beverage cans and bottles is 96 percent.  Minnesota currently recycles around one third of that amount.

In the upcoming weeks and months, you’re going to be hearing a lot about the Recycling Refund bill.  We’ll continue to keep you updated as the bill moves through the legislative committees, and ask you to send messages to your representatives and senators.  In the meantime, please consider signing our petition to Stop Throwing Jobs Away, which will be delivered to your legislators as the debate heats up.

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philip vieth says:

It is an excelent idea that is long overdue. I would think that a 6 to 7 cents per can or bottle would be sufficient to be the deposit with a return of 5 cents to the returnee. That way there would be funds to administer the program.

I have been involved in cleanup projects on Spring Lake on the Mississippi and as far as number os items it is by far the plastic bottle. It is way above any other item of trash. However, styrofoam is the largest volume. However, if plastic bottles have a deposit it could eleviate a large problem.
Hopefully there will be legislation to attack this problem.