Conservation Minnesota

Our views on the Draft Metropolitan Solid Waste Management Policy Plan, 2016-2036

In communicating with our network of over 65,000 Minnesotans, we consistently find that waste reduction and recycling is a broadly held concern. We find that citizens across the state strongly support access to effective recycling programs, eliminating toxins and problem materials from the waste stream, and dramatically reducing landfilling.

We agree with the Plan’s goal of minimizing the long term risks and ongoing costs associated with continued reliance on landfilling. Eliminating our dependence on landfills will save long term costs and reduce the potential health risks associated with land disposal.

Minnesota’s Solid Waste Tax was created to provide a stable source of state support for recycling, waste reduction, and solid waste management programs. However, 30% of this revenue stream is currently sent to the state’s General Fund rather than used to support the efforts of local governments to meet the recycling goals created in statute. The executive branch and Legislature should ensure that Solid Waste Tax funds are used as intended and are supporting local recycling and waste reduction programs.

We support the Plan’s Waste Abatement objectives, in particular the 1% ceiling by 2020 of land disposal.  However, we note that the objective for organics recovery seems overly conservative. We think more aggressive goals around organics recovering would create a greater urgency in addressing the need to remove organics from the waste stream and build effective systems for organics collection and processing.

We also support the Plan’s objective to meet the state’s 75% recycling goal by 2030. The plan should also encourage innovation by local governments that is designed to fully achieve recycling goals. These innovative policies could support the increased interest in a sustainable, circular economy in which products are designed and marketed in a way that does not deplete natural resources or create unrecoverable waste. The Plan correctly highlights the largest environmental value of recycling lies primarily in providing feedstocks to manufacturing and reduced need for extraction and processing of virgin raw materials.

The Plan should acknowledge the fact that the state stands to benefit from the economic development and jobs created by recycling markets and must commit to investing more in this area.

Finally, we support the Plan’s continued promotion of producer responsibility. In particular, local governments and citizens should not be burdened with the cost of managing hazardous materials such as mercury-containing lamps.  We believe the Plan should more clearly identify a goal of developing product stewardship policies with a priority placed on materials that are hazardous to human health.

Click here to read the full letter.

About Nels Paulsen

Nels Paulsen

A man of few words, but a great deal of action, Nels Paulsen serves as policy director for Conservation Minnesota. In that role, he helps the organization set our public policy strategy and then works with the field and communications teams to see that they are successfully implemented. A passion for the great outdoors was a driving force behind the Wisconsin-native’s decision to become a lawyer, and ultimately join our team. 

Saying that his perfect day includes fishing, and that the three things he can’t live without are a fishing pole, his phone and cheese, it only seems natural that he describes his favorite place in the state as being Lake Saganaga. On May 13, 1979, the state record walleye was pulled from the waters just outside the cabin his family owns up there.

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