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Are people recycling more during the pandemic?

If it seems like big blue bins are overflowing more than usual, it's not your imagination.

Local recycler businesses have seen a bump in household recycling during the state's stay-at-home order, which has driven people to shop online and cook more meals at home. But most of those gains have been offset by a steep drop in commercial recycling, due to store and restaurant closures.

Eureka Recycling, which sorts recyclables in Minneapolis and St. Paul, said residential recycling is up by an average of 15%, driven in part by growing heaps of cardboard boxes and aluminum cans.

Eureka handles more household waste than commercial, so its numbers are up overall.

The latest figures from the city of Minneapolis show that residents recycled about 9% more in March and April than they did in 2019. Garbage, on the other hand, was up about 12%.

Dem-Con Cos. in Shakopee has seen a 25% rise in residential recycling, but a 20% drop-off from businesses.

"We're seeing less cardboard … because a lot of the commercial streams are really heavy in [cardboard]," said Bill Keegan, president of Dem-Con. "We're seeing more cans, like soup cans and such. And we're seeing more" milk jug-type plastic.

The price recyclers can fetch for cardboard has boomed amid the pandemic to over $100 per ton, more than triple what it was a year ago, according to Resource Recycling, a trade publication.

"Your cardboard box is more valuable because there's less cardboard out there, because of the reduction in commercial volumes," Keegan said.