Lake Harriet "waste audit" aimed at improving recycling programs.
One person's trash is the Minneapolis Park Board's treasure.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board conducted a "waste audit" on Monday of trash collected at Lake Harriet over the weekend to see what kind of things people were throwing out and whether some of it was actually recyclable.
The Park Board partnered with local and state agencies to sort through garbage from around the park. They plan to use the information to improve recycling and composting campaigns.
"A lot of it is educating people on what can be recycled," said Gail Dorfman, Hennepin County commissioner for the third district. "We're trying to reduce what we put into landfills and what we burn."
Groups of volunteers sifted through piles of trash from different areas in the park, picking it up and putting it into containers for different types of materials, such as metals, plastics, paper, compostable food and "true trash." In one pile, volunteers picked up hamburger buns from Saturday and separated them from their checkered wrappers. In another, they dumped purple paper plates and matching silverware into a bucket. The volunteers brought the buckets over to a station where their weights were recorded next to the exact area they were first picked up.
Some volunteers from Teen Teamworks, a teen summer employment and educational program, said some of the most interesting stuff they found were a power drill and a phone. Volunteers from the city, Hennepin County and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, among other organizations, also helped with the effort.
Lisa Beck, the Park Board's director of operations, said the information will be used to help determine the placement of trash and recycling bins, as well as find targeted ways to encourage people to recycle and compost.
Just as the city recently announced single-sort recycling to start next year, the Park Board will do the same this summer at its parks. The bins are already in place at recreation centers. Park officials said they hope this uniform approach will encourage more people to recycle everywhere. The parks currently have six separate bins for recycling paper, cardboard, glass, plastics, magazines and metal.
The parks will also have a bin for organics, all materials that break down into soils. Park officials said composting has already been introduced at the Bread and Pickle restaurant at Lake Harriet.
The Park Board conducted a similar study of its headquarters and recreation centers last January. In that audit, the board found that 40 percent of what was thrown out was compostable and 22 percent was recyclable.
"We're killing ourselves if we don't change what we do," said Park Board Superintendent Jayne Miller.
Masako Hirsch • 612-673-4263