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Minneapolis aiming to top projections for organics pickup

From ads on bus stops and radio stations to teams of interns going door-to-door, the city of Minneapolis launching a "full-court press" to boost the number of people participating in curbside organics recycling.

The program kicked off in 2015 and expanded to a citywide rollout in late March. By July, households in all of the city's neighborhoods will be able to sign up for a new organics bin to fill with food scraps, meat, fish, bones, tissues, paper plates, pizza boxes and a long list of other items. 

So far, about 35 percent of eligible households have signed up, and each have filled their bins with about five pounds of organics per week. That's below the city's initial projection, which suggested that the program could get at least 40 percent of households, recycling about 7.5 pounds per household, per week. 

In a council committee meeting Tuesday, officials said they expect they can top the projections -- but only with a broader effort to ensure people know about the program and how to use it. The city received a $315,000 grant from the state last year to fund outreach work about organics, and officials said they intend to spend it on a broader advertising campaign.

Kellie Kish, the city's recycling coordinator, said the city has made a concerted effort to share its message with a variety of communities -- and in at least a half-dozen languages.

An organics sign-up card that will go out in the mail in June will be sent out in four different languages to ensure that residents understand the program and can sign up without having to request additional translated materials. Interns hired by the city this summer will also go door to door in neighborhoods with some of the lowest sign-up rates.

Kish said the city's next step will be figuring out how to turn the city's compost operations into a two-way process.

"We do want to close that loop -- figuring out a way to get compost back to residents," she said.

The city raised all eligible customers' annual waste pickup fees by $48 last year to pay for the service, so new sign-ups do not come with an additional fee. 

Ex-Mayor R.T. Rybak named Minneapolis Foundation CEO

Above: Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and director of Generation Next , talked with his guests before he announced its plan to tackle the achievement gap during a presentation to community leaders at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Monday, August 18, 2014 in Minneapolis, MN. (ELIZABETH FLORES/STAR TRIBUNE)

Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is taking the reins of one of the region's most prominent philanthropies, the Minneapolis Foundation.

The move to CEO of the foundation, announced Monday morning, comes about two-and-a-half years after Rybak began work at Generation Next, a non-profit aimed at closing the area's education acheivement gap.

Rybak's post-mayorship tenure had been largely under the radar until recently, when he began promoting his new book "Pothole Confidential."

At the Minneapolis Foundation, Rybak will replace former Hennepin County Administrator Sandy Vargas -- who announced her retirement last year.

The foundation recently celebrated its centennial and distributed $80 million in grants last year.

“It is a tremendous honor to be joining a true institution that has spent a century doing great things for my hometown,” Rybak said in a statement.

Rybak, who currently serves on the foundation's board, will take over as the seventh CEO and President on July 1.