Determined to become a "greener" city, St. Louis Park plans to begin citywide organics recycling next year.
The city is asking the public to weigh in as it begins shaping a request for proposals for a new recycling contract next year. City Council members want bids from recycling firms to include organics collection, which, combined with better recycling of other materials, could reduce the city's garbage by 42 percent.
"The City Council ... wants to reduce waste, and it's the right thing to do," said Scott Merkley, the city's public works coordinator.
St. Louis Park would join Wayzata, Medina, Loretto, Maple Plain and Medicine Lake as Hennepin County cities that offer organics recycling citywide. In five other Hennepin County cities, pilot projects cover some neighborhoods or residents can choose a garbage hauler who also recycles organics.
"Organics" generally refers to food scraps and food-soiled paper products, which Hennepin County's website says comprises about a quarter of its garbage. While other cities in the area have been interested in expanding organics recycling, many have waited because of the lack of large composting sites in the state.
Golden Valley entered a new era of recycling at the start of 2012, switching to a single-bin system that doesn't require residents to separate recyclables. In the first six months of the year, the recycling rate increased 13 percent, said Mark Ray, Golden Valley's recycling coordinator.
While the city's environment commission was interested in adding organics collection, Golden Valley was told that there are challenges on the frequency of collection -- organic material that sits for two weeks may begin to smell -- and that "the market demand isn't there," Ray said.
"We probably would do it if there's a lot of resident interest," he said. "We have the option to expand to that as part of our contract."
Edina just signed a new seven-year, single-sort recycling contract with Allied Waste. Edina residents hire their own garbage haulers from an approved city list. One of those, Vierkant Disposal, provides organics recycling to those who want it.
Solvei Wilmot, the city's recycling coordinator, said Edina, too, has talked about adding organics collection.
"It's not as simple as it sounds," she said. "The [state] is changing rules for how [composting] sites are managed, and only a few demo sites have permits now. ... We are waiting for those sites to expand and be more available."
Paul Kroening, who supervises waste reduction in Hennepin County, said the state is developing new rules for large sites that would compost organics. Now, the handful of sites that exist are operating as demonstration sites or with temporary approval.
St. Louis Park's recycling contract runs out in September 2013, so if organics recycling were added, it probably would begin in October 2013. The St. Louis Park council probably won't finalize its requirements for the new recycling contract until the end of September, but Merkley said the council has made it clear that it wants organics recycling included. Bidders also will be asked to include proposals for single-sort and dual-sort recycling, which is what the city has now.
Later this year, the city's current recycler, Eureka Recycling, is expected to begin collecting more plastics as well as scrap metal that's no more than 2 feet in length.
The city's garbage service already has a "pay-as-you-throw" system, with different charges for different-sized refuse bins. Right now the smallest garbage bin is 30 gallons, but Merkley said the city plans to add a 20-gallon option at a lower price.
"What we're hoping is that by adding organics and having additional recycling, people would begin to downsize their garbage container and lower their rate by doing that," he said. "The council wants to reward people who do the right thing."
Over the next few weeks the city is asking for feedback from residents on what they want in a new recycling contract. E-mails or phone calls are welcome, Merkley said, and residents can fill out a quick survey on the city's website.
For more details, contact information and to take the survey, go to www.startribune.com/a1638.
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380