Garbage is not a fun thing to think about. In fact, I believe most of us will do whatever it takes not to think about garbage. It’s the phenomenon known as “out of sight, out of mind” and it is alive and well right here in Minnesota. Back in 2007, a Solid Waste Policy report recommended that we reach an 80% recycling rate for beverage containers by 2012. It’s almost 2016 and Minnesota is at a measly 47% recycling rate for beverage containers. This is tons and tons of material that could be reused just going to waste.
The last thing most of us want to do is go over big numbers and talk about big problems but how else are we going to address this issue? In order to become an example to the rest of the nation and the world on recycling and innovation, we all need to do our part and step up. Honestly, with the benefits that include reducing costs, increasing profits, and being conservative about our resources, why is Minnesota still falling behind?
According to a study conducted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in 2013, we threw away about 3 million tons of solid waste every year. All this waste ends up in landfills or incinerators.
- 519,400 tons of food waste which could be composted
- 285,200 tons of mixed recyclable paper could be recycled
- 192,000 tons of bag and film plastic could be converted
- 168,000 tons of wood waste could be diverted to other sources
- 23,000 tons of PET beverage containers could be recycled
- 12,000 tons of Aluminum beverage containers could be recycled
These are some pretty serious and mind boggling numbers. What this tells me is that we need to start thinking about garbage. At Conservation Minnesota, we are working on a variety of policies that would greatly reduce the amount of waste and increase our recycling rates here in Minnesota.
We helped to increase funding to SCORE grants by over 20%! This is the largest increase in over a decade and relieves the costs of recycling from local governments. We supported a bill that requires metro area commercial buildings to begin recycling by January 2016. Finally, we introduced a bill (HF1477/SF1132) to re-capture the 30% of the Solid Waste Tax that is currently diverted to the general fund instead of being used as intended to support recycling programs and relieve costs from local taxpayers.
Together we can help to reduce waste here in Minnesota. Recycling is good for local economies, creates jobs, and keeps valuable resources in our production lines.