Hennepin County targets garbage pileup
- Article by: KEVIN DUCHSCHERE
- Star Tribune
- April 10, 2012 - 11:15 PM
More recycling on curbsides and more food scraps to compost bins.
In a nutshell, that's how the Hennepin County Board agreed Tuesday to handle the growing amount of trash expected to be generated by businesses and residents over the next 20 years.
"We're awash in garbage here in this county ... and we're pursuing a very advanced and aggressive plan to handle that," Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said.
The Solid Waste Management Master Plan, as it's dubbed, commits the county to boosting its recycling rate from the current 38 percent to 45 percent by 2015, and 54 percent by 2030.
It aims to do that by making recycling simpler and by renewing efforts to boost recycling among those who live in apartments and multi-family housing.
Pilot projects to reduce the amount of sorting of recycling materials in Minneapolis, which has an elaborate multi-sort process, show that recycling participation goes up and more material is recycled when it becomes "easier and more convenient," said Carl Michaud, Hennepin County's environmental services director.
The county also proposes to compost 6 percent of food products, including food that goes unused and food mixed with paper products. That's double the goal set for Hennepin County by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
But Josh Winters, executive director of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), said that the plan is disproportionately fixed on burning garbage as opposed to recycling it. He questioned why the county spends millions more on burning garbage at Great River Energy's Elk River plant than it does on recycling programs.
"There's really no cost-benefit analysis, no way of assessing that amount of money going into incineration ... it really was more business as usual," Winters said.
The plan expresses the county's hopes to increase burning at its downtown Minneapolis garbage burner, a proposal that is under review. Hennepin is seeking permission to operate the burner at capacity, which would boost the amount of waste burned there annually from 365,000 tons to 405,000 tons. Environmental advocates say added burning would only increase air pollution.
The county prepared the plan in response to new targets set by the MPCA, which pays Hennepin County about $3 million annually for recycling. It's up to the county to tell the state how it plans to meet those goals.
Hennepin's plans to streamline sorting of recyclables are largely aimed at Minneapolis, which produces more than twice as many tons of recycled materials as any other city in the county but ranks way down the list on per-household recycling. City officials are considering changing their recycling policy to make it easier.
Also Tuesday, the County Board approved a $2.4 million expansion and remodel of the kitchen at the Hennepin County workhouse in Plymouth. The project includes a $2 million contract for the work with Graham Construction of Eagan. About $400,000 of the project, which came in over the original budget, will be covered with revenues from the county's suspense account consisting of savings from previous building projects.
The kitchen dates to the 1930s and serves many more meals than it had been designed to provide.
Kevin Duchschere 612-673-4455
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