sustainable packaging

Packaging Waste
& Recycling

Too Much Waste & Why It Matters

Minnesota has a trash problem. We are generating 5.9 million tons of garbage every year, and this number is expected to grow nearly 20% by 2042. Packaging and plastic waste are an increasing part of the problem:

  • The delivery economy and e-commerce have driven up packaging and plastic waste.
  • 40% of our waste stream is now packaging and paper.
  • Plastic production will double in the next twenty years.
  • Less than half of all this waste gets recycled—the rest is burned or landfilled.

Currently, manufacturers have no incentive to reduce the amount of packaging they use or to avoid hard-to-recycle materials. Our local governments are stuck with the burden of all this trash. We need commonsense policies that reduce the amount of waste and help communities recycle as much as possible. 
Two ways we can do that are the Packaging Waste & Cost Reduction Act and the Statewide Recycling Refund.

Packaging Waste & Cost Reduction Act

The Packaging Waste & Cost Reduction Act would hold manufacturers accountable for their products and packaging throughout the entire lifecycle—from product design all the way through to reuse, recycling, or safe disposal. It also requires all packaging to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2032.

The legislation would ensure sustainable funding to offset the cost of collection, expand end-markets, and shift manufacturers to more reusable and sustainable packaging without taxpayer funds. This would lead to the redesign of products to reduce their impacts on the environment. The legislation builds on Minnesota’s existing recycling infrastructure to reduce the burden on local governments to deal with waste.

The Packaging Act has even been called “the most impactful recycling bill in over 40 years” and will fundamentally reshape how recycling is funded.

By increasing recycling, the bill would also create more sustainable jobs. Today, about 37,000 jobs in Minnesota are directly or indirectly supported by the recycling industry. These jobs pay almost $2 billion in wages and add nearly $8.5 billion to Minnesota’s economy.

Transitioning to more reusable, recyclable, or compostable alternatives also significantly impacts climate pollution. Addressing climate change requires rethinking how we keep our valuable natural resource materials in use, over and over again, and considering the impacts of hauling growing amounts of trash to landfills or burning the garbage in incinerators.

The burden of managing these ever-growing mountains of packaging waste currently falls on local governments and taxpayers. By shifting the cost of recycling to producers, we create an incentive to reduce waste and stop using materials that are hard to recycle. This will save taxpayers millions of dollars spent on waste programs and make recycling easier for everybody.

Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt

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Ask your legislators to support the Packaging Waste Act

This legislation will lead to less waste in landfills and incentivize manufacturers to use recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging rather than single-use plastics and wasteful materials.


A Recycling Refund bill, or Deposit Return System (DRS), incentivizes consumers to return and recycle used bottles by rewarding consumers who return their containers with a small deposit. This legislation would significantly increase the number of recyclable bottles and cans Minnesotans recycle.

Recycling rates are substantially higher in states with refund programs than in Minnesota. In addition to incentivizing recycling, adding a small deposit to beverage containers allows community groups to benefit from deposit returns and assists manufacturers in retrieving needed recyclable materials from the waste stream.

Two states with recycling refunds, Michigan and Oregon, regularly achieve redemption rates of around 85%—the average redemption rate across all 10 bottle bill states is around 69%. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) reported that only about half of all cans in Minnesota are recycled.

Recycling aluminum cans uses 90% less energy than manufacturing cans from new materials.

Recycling refunds help local recycling centers by reducing the contamination of other recycled materials. In non-recycling refund states, bottles are mixed in with all other recyclables, and broken glass and non-recyclable plastic contaminate materials, making them unusable. This is why over half of all recycled glass in the US is collected from the 10 recycling refund states.

A Minnesota Recycling Refund would divert tons of material from landfills and allow manufacturers to reuse bottles, helping save enormous amounts of energy and emissions required to produce new ones. 

Conservation Minnesota first advocated for this type of legislation over a decade ago. We plan to work with legislators in the 2024 legislative session to make Minnesota the 11th bottle bill state in the country. 

Reducing waste and keeping recyclables out of landfills are steps we can take to protect our air and water. To have an impact, Minnesota must invest in recycling programs, increase incentives for recycling, and help producers consider the lifecycle of the products they create.