The key measures will be how much the city collects and what it has to pay the processors to accept it.
Prodded by Hennepin County to boost its lagging recycling rate, Minneapolis is rolling out new carts in two neighborhoods that will allow residents to toss all of their recyclable trash in one bin.
Among cities in Hennepin, Minneapolis is the only one that won't pick up recycling unless the cans, glass, plastic, newspapers, cardboard, mixed paper and magazines are separated. The "seven-sort" method produces cleaner waste, but it also puts more of the burden on residents to think before they recycle.
Minneapolis recycles about a third of its trash, well below the 41 percent rate for the county as a whole.
City and county leaders believe a test of the new recycling carts will help answer the question about whether it's the sorting or some other factor that hampers Minneapolis's recycling.
The new recycling carts, identical to garbage carts except for their blue lids, are going to all city trash customers in north Minneapolis's Willard Hay and south Minneapolis's East Calhoun neighborhoods for a year.
Some say the effort has already paid off in the Seward neighborhood. Since last spring, some Seward residents have been able to do all of their recycling with two bins: one for containers and another for paper fibers. St. Paul uses a similar system. "People really like the simplicity," said Seward neighborhood association co-president Sheldon Mains.
Recycling tonnage has risen 18 percent among neighborhood participants. But it's not known yet whether that's due mainly to more recyclers or people recycling more per household, according to Mike Trdan, the former Minneapolis recycling coordinator who landed the grant for the Seward project. The city also doesn't know how much more it might cost to pay the processor to accept the unsorted recyclables.
Trdan said he thinks that the new one-container system -- already dominant in suburban Hennepin -- will result in greater recycling. But the test, Trdan said, is what happens to the city's low contamination rate for recyclables. If the drippings from a can of tomato juice stains a sheet of cardboard, for example, it can ruin it for recycling. That's one reason that Susan Young, the city's former solid waste director, favored the seven-sort method.
The city will conduct its test projects for a year before evaluating its effects. Then officials will recommend whether to continue the seven-sort method or switch to one of the simpler routines.
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438