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“We are trying to do as thorough a job as possible in the environmental review,” MPCA Assistant Commissioner David Thornton said. “The more controversial a project, the longer it takes, because more questions get asked.”
The county’s request to increase burning was significant enough to merit scrutiny, he said, adding that its withdrawal might be a better result. “Recycling is environmentally superior to incineration,” he said.
McLaughlin and the county had argued that increased incineration was better than putting garbage in a landfill, saying that aligned with MPCA goals. When working at capacity, the 27-year-old HERC can turn 1,212 tons of trash into heat and electricity per day.
Increased burning would have brought an additional $1 million into the county’s Solid Waste Fund, which is used for green initiatives. The HERC also heats part of downtown and coils under Target Field.
Last year, 140,000 tons of waste went to Twin Cities landfills. About 30 percent of that waste is organic material, according to an MPCA report.
Hodges expresses support
“I look forward to partnering with Hennepin County on zero-waste initiatives,” she said Tuesday. “When we’re a zero-waste Minneapolis, there’s nothing left to burn.”
City Public Works Director Steve Kottke said the city can move quickly toward organics collection, but major questions need to be answered. Among them: Will it be an opt-in program? Will organics be commingled with yard waste? Will everyone pay for the program, or just users? And where will organics be processed?
“We know that reducing organics is the next step in solid waste,” he said, but 11 months isn’t much time. “Sometime [later] in 2015 would be practical and reasonable.”
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747