Paul Austin

Paul Austin is the director of Conservation Minnesota, a statewide non-profit. In that role, he gets to hear and share Minnesotan’s stories about our lakes, lands and way of life. Paul’s past lives include election as a small town mayor, serving at the US Agency for International Development, and managing a small marketing firm. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, two small children and one very large dog.

We all do better when we all do better

Posted by: Paul Austin Updated: April 5, 2014 - 8:42 PM

It started out as a laudable goal.  Rep. Frank Hornstein included a provision in the House supplemental budget that would update the state’s outdated recycling rate targets, encourage more business recycling, and increase funding for county recycling programs.  

But as often happens when bills like this are debated in the dark of night, the section relating to commercial waste was rather quietly stripped from the bill.  The final vote was taken well after the capitol press corps had filed their stories and gone home for the day. 

With the state’s commercial sector producing half of the state’s waste, it only makes sense that businesses be encouraged to do their part in helping the state become better at recycling. But just such a move was not in the cards for the Minnesota House.   

Minnesota, as a whole, is good at recycling.  But while we have a long history of supporting recycling, we are now lagging behind many other states when it comes to recycling organics, cans and bottles, and problem materials like batteries, mattresses, and carpet.   

Recycling rates have remained stagnant even though more than half of the state is now utilizing single sort recycling. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has said repeatedly that single sort is not a silver bullet that will allow Minnesota to meet its recycling goals.  It is but one tool in a whole toolbox of options. 

We need to start looking at some of those other tools if we are going to meet our goals.  The Hornstein effort to kick start business recycling was a good place to begin.

And it is not too late.  There is still an opportunity to resurrect the business recycling provision when the bill heads to conference committee.  To add your voice to the debate and to urge your representatives to support increased recycling, click here.


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