What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to suzanne.ziegler@startribune.com.

Minneapolis embarks on single-sort recycling

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: November 8, 2012 - 3:36 PM

Are you ready for "Big Blue"?

That's the name Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy gave Thursday to a new single-sort recycling bin headed to every household in Minneapolis. Households with the bins -- they start rolling out on Monday -- can stop separating glass, plastic, metal and other recyclable material before putting it out for pickup.

“This will make recycling so easy," Colvin Roy said at a press conference in a Northeast warehouse, surrounded by blue bins. "Everything will go into big blue.”

City officials hope the program, which will cost about $9 million, will double the city's recycling percentage by 2015. Minneapolis residents currently recycle about 18 to 20 percent of their solid waste, but it's been stuck at that number for many years.

“I really look forward a few years from now to people saying the city of Minneapolis is the Number 1 recycling city in the United State of America," Mayor R.T. Rybak said. "I think this is a big step toward doing that.”

About 30,000 bins will go out in 2012. The rest will be delivered to neighborhoods in spring of 2013 (see map, at right).

The city is contracting with Waste Management to handle the sorting, which will be done at a Broadway Avenue recycling facility, the largest in Minnesota.

The downside of single-sort recycling is that the different materials "contaminate" each other when mixed together. This means not only is there more "residual" waste, but the processing costs are higher. City officials said Thursday that they believe technology has greatly reduced the amount of residual waste.

But a statewide think tank, MN 2020, found it nonetheless "curious" that a Minneapolis study assumed processing costs will be the same for single and dual sort recycling.

The city's public works director, Steve Kotke, said Thursday that the switch also comes with cost savings. The efficiency of single-sort may allow them to cut the recycling vehicle fleet in half, Kotke said. Plus, the city will be disposing of less solid waste, which also costs money.

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