Mayor Betsy Hodges advocated for Minneapolis to be a “zero waste” city during last year’s campaign, as she opposed expanding the trash-burning capacity at the county incinerator.
Thursday night, she and other local leaders met at a south Minneapolis church to consider how to make that a reality, turning toward San Francisco as a model for diverting most garbage from landfills and burners.
“We think of ourselves as being a pretty green town,” U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison told a crowd that included various council members and environmental advocates.
But, he added, just 28 percent of the city’s waste is recycled and composted – lower than the national average.
By contrast, San Francisco diverts 80 percent of its garbage from landfills, largely by requiring all residents to compost and recycle and doing extensive outreach to ensure people follow the rules. The city also bans plastic bags and restricts the sale of plastic water bottles, and requires haulers of construction waste and debris to bring materials to registered facilities that reuse and recycle them.
Addressing the crowd remotely, San Francisco waste coordinator Julie Bryant suggested that her city’s accomplishments were possible for Minneapolis, too.
“We believe any city can do what San Francisco has done and beyond which just a few focused people willing to have a zero waste vision,” said Bryant.
Bryant said the state of California required all cities to divert at least half of their waste from landfills by 2000 – or face steep fines – but that San Francisco went a step further and aimed to raise that amount to 75 percent by 2010.
She described the black, blue and green waste bins as ubiquitous around the city, and said that residents save money on their garbage bill when they throw out less. The city also works closely with its waste hauler, Recology.
“We’re on the cusp of doing something just like San Francisco has done,” said state Rep. Frank Hornstein, noting that he’s pushing for legislation to increase the statewide recycling and composting goal to 75 percent.
Minneapolis has until the end of the year to produce a composting plan after the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted last month to drop their bid to burn more garbage at the incinerator, in the wake of opposition from City Hall.
“This isn’t just about stuff that goes in and out of a landfill, or in and ut of a garbage burner,” said Hodges of her zero waste goal. “This is about who we are as people and how we want to be as a community.”