Judy Hollander, Hennepin County property services director, with the new mini-sized trash can distributed to Hennepin County Government Center employees this week and seen Wednesday, Sept 11, 2013, in Minneapolis, MN.

David Joles, Star Tribune

Little trash cans yield big results at Hennepin County center

  • Article by: Rochelle Olson
  • Star Tribune
  • May 4, 2014 - 11:04 PM

Those little black trash cans distributed to Hennepin County Government Center employees did the job in cutting down waste, according to the county’s recycling report.

Trash production dropped 12 percent at the government center last year for a savings of $11,000, said the report from the county’s Public Works’ environmental services department.

The miniature trash cans come with a little lid and can hold a quart of waste. Written on the side: “This is all the garbage I make.” Surprised employees came to work one Monday last fall to find the cans had replaced many larger garbage containers.

Despite initial mockery — lighthearted and otherwise — by staff, the county now says the cans produced the desired result. As part of its 2014 strategy, the county intends to distribute the mini bins to more county facilities.

Less than 3 percent of the waste from county operations went into landfills last year. The goal is 0 percent.

The county’s waste management plan goes beyond its own operations.

Under the Solid Waste Management Master Plan adopted in 2012, the county committed to pumping up the overall recycling rate from 38 percent to 45 percent by 2015. By 2030, the county aims to recycle 54 percent of waste. Last year, recycling increased by 1 percentage point to 40 percent, from 2012.

Organics recovery, however, dipped to 3 percent, which is half the 2015 goal, the report said.

The county is working with Minneapolis to develop citywide curbside organics recycling this year.

Another plan will promote back yard composting by building and selling composting bins. Sentence to Serve, a program for low-risk adult and juvenile offenders, will help build them.

In 2013, 1.364 million tons of solid waste was generated in the county, about the same as in 2012. But the amount of waste generated per capita has decreased by 20 percent since 2007.

A graphic in the report showed how Hennepin County measured up to other areas. It is in the same realm as Oregon, Washington and San Francisco when it comes to resource recovery and recycling. But none of these regions is near Sweden and Germany, which do not dump any waste into landfills.

“The county is committed to making recycling as convenient as possible,” the report said, adding that the success also relies on individuals and businesses to change their behavior by increasing recovery of organics, paper and plastic. Those three categories represent the largest portions of waste being discarded, the report said.


Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747

Twitter: @rochelleolson

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