Minneapolis residents left out of the first phase of the city's new organics pickup program will soon be able to get their own green bins for food scraps, tissues, wax paper, coffee grounds and a variety of other compostable materials.

The city will begin distributing the bins in late March -- but only to households that sign up for the service by Feb. 1. Sign up after that date and your bin will show up sometime in July. 

So far, more than 35,000 households have signed up, which amounts to about one-third of eligible customers. That includes about 12,000 people who signed up during the first phase of the program, which began in August. Six months in, city officials managing the program said most people using the service seem to be understanding how to properly sort and package up their organics, though there have been a few missteps.

If you're signing up or eagerly awaiting another bin to squeeze in alongside your trash and recycling, a few things to keep in mind:

  1. You can't just dump your organics directly in the bin
    When it's cold out, your banana peels and pizza scraps are likely to stick to the side of the bin. When it's hot, the thing might start to stink. But most importantly, the city won't take any of it unless it's inside a paper grocery bag or a certified compostable plastic bag. (You'll get a starter pack of the plastic bags when you sign up and get your "welcome kit" from the city.)
  2. Your Starbucks cups are not compostable
    You can toss in food scraps, eggshells, cotton swabs, plant trimmings, and a long list of other products.  You can also fill your organics cart with certified organic paper products and takeout containers, which are popping up at a growing number of restaurants. But those plastic-lined cups are not compostable -- and they are one of the biggest offenders showing up in Minneapolis' organics bins. Kellie Kish, the city's recycling coordinator, said city waste haulers can spot the problem immediately: "If they see a bunch of Starbucks or Caribou cups or a bunch of McDonalds cold cups, those are items that should not be in there," she said.
  3. It's already included in your bill
    Waste collection bills for eligible households went up by $48 per year in 2015, and part of that increase was to pay for the new organics service. Signing up doesn't add an additional fee.
  4. Most organics pickup customers are opting for smaller trash bins
    The city offers two sizes of trash bins: a 94-gallon cart that costs $5 per month and a 32-gallon cart for $2. About 68 percent of the people who are already using the organics pickup service have opted for the smaller trash bin, along with 53 percent of the second-wave organics customers who have signed up but don't yet have the service, according to the Public Works Department.


Above: The first organics bins rolled out in August 2015.