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Organics recycling for residents

About one-third of our trash is organic materials, including food, food-soiled paper, and certified compostable products, that could be composted. Organics recycling is the best opportunity to reduce our trash and put it to better use.

Materials accepted for organics recycling

See the organics recycling guide (PDF) for a list of materials accepted in organics recycling programs throughout Hennepin County.

Check with your city recycling coordinator or waste hauler for the most accurate information organics recycling service availability in your city, program setup, and materials accepted.

Helpful resources

Order residential organics recycling resources

The following free resources are available to Hennepin County residents to improve recycling and organics recycling in your home and to distribute to friends and neighbors. See what's available and order free resources.

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The impact of COVID-19 on compost site operations

Like many other businesses, the compost sites that serve the metro area have experienced disruptions due to COVID-19.

For example, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) site suspended organics deliveries for nearly a month in April 2020, and the Specialized Environmental Technologies (SET) site has made temporary operational changes. Prior to the pandemic, manual removal of contaminants, such as plastic and glass, was a critical part of operations. For now, manual sorting has stopped as a precaution for employee health and safety.

Challenges related to COVID-19 have reduced processing capacity at the compost sites, restricted their ability to remove contamination, and made it more difficult for them to meet quality standards and sell their finished product. Because of these circumstances, some organics delivered for composting was landfilled rather than turned into compost in 2020.

The challenges were most severe in the spring but have become progressively better with time. The county is actively working with our cities, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), haulers, and compost sites to address the challenges   caused by COVID-19 and minimize the amount of organics sent to landfills. The MPCA has established a performance standard for the compost sites that requires a minimum of 75% of all incoming material be composted. Under normal circumstances, composters are expected to process at least 85% of all incoming material.

This news is frustrating and disheartening for participants trying to do the right thing by separating their organics to put it to better use as compost. Despite the disruptions, we encourage you to keep participating in organics recycling. Your participation supports the composting system and helps ensure services will continue to be available.

Keep participating in organics recycling and compost the right things

Organics recycling is a crucial part of our zero waste efforts and action on climate change. Your continued participation can help keep as much organic material out of the trash as possible.

You can help ensure the sustainability of organics recycling programs by putting the right materials in the organics bin. Compost sites need to receive organics with low levels of contamination, or materials that cannot be composted, so they can produce clean, nutrient-rich compost that people want to purchase and use. Compost that contains plastic, glass, and other contaminants is very difficult to sell and can only be used for low-end, low-value purposes.

Know what’s accepted for organics recycling

See the organics recycling guide (PDF) for a list of items that are and are not accepted for organics recycling.

If you’re unsure, focus on collecting food. Spoiled food and food scraps are the most common material in the trash and the most nutrient-rich material in the composting process, which makes them the most important material to collect for organics recycling. If you aren’t sure what to do with an item, refer to the organics recycling guide or put it in the trash.

Tips for reducing contamination

Review our factsheet (PDF) to learn more about what is accepted, situations where contamination issues commonly arise, and ways to address contamination issues. The factsheet is focused on reducing contamination at businesses and schools, but the tips are applicable to households.

Prevent food waste in the first place

While composting is great for disposing of food scraps and other compostable materials, preventing wasted food is even more important and more impactful.

Making simple changes and working to adopt new habits can have a big impact. Creating and following a meal plan, keeping track of and using up the food you buy, understanding date labels, and learning how to properly store and process food can all significantly reduce the amount of food waste you generate.

Visit Save the Food for ideas on meal planning, recipes for leftovers, food storage tips, and more.

Additional background

Developing composting infrastructure to increase capacity 

The disruptions due to COVID-19 have highlighted the strain on organics processing capacity in the Twin Cities metro area. Additional capacity is needed to ensure the viability of existing organics recycling programs and support the development of new programs.

The county is pursuing a variety of strategies to increase transfer and processing capacity for organics, including making modifications at the Brooklyn Park Transfer Stations, supporting the opening of new compost sites, exploring the development of anaerobic digesting or other technologies, and increasing the use of compost in county operations.

Regulatory flexibility granted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency due to COVID-19

The state’s Waste Management Act requires organics and recycling to be managed properly. If material is separated as organics or recycling, then it must be composted or recycled.

The same law grants the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) authority to allow the disposal of recyclables when extenuating circumstances arise. The MPCA, recognizing the hardship some regulated entities have experienced as a result of COVID-19, has offered regulatory flexibility to allow entities to pursue alternative management options while maintaining permit and regulatory compliance.

SET requested regulatory flexibility in its operations with the intent of limiting employee contact with incoming organics for health and safety concerns related to COVID-19  .  Because of the lack of organics processing capacity, the county also received regulatory flexibility for the management of organics at the Brooklyn Park Transfer Station. The MPCA worked closely with the Minnesota Department of Revenue, the Governor’s office, and the Legislature to pass legislation and grant regulatory flexibility with specific conditions.

Learn more about the MPCA granting regulatory authority.

The organics collected in curbside or drop-off programs are taken to a local commercial compost facility and recycled into compost, a nutrient-rich material that is used in landscaping and road construction projects to improve our soil.

Participants in organics recycling programs say it’s a surprisingly easy way to make a difference. It provides a “feel good” benefit, helps the environment, and results in a visible reduction in trash.

Organics recycling:

Provides the best opportunity to reduce our trash

Waste sort studies, like the one Hennepin County conducted in 2016, continue to show that organic materials are the largest proportion of our trash – making up about 25 percent of the trash stream.

Reduces greenhouse gas emissions

Organic materials decomposing in landfills generate methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Diverting organics to composting helps to reduce landfill methane emissions.

Improves soil and protects water

When compost is added to soil, it reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides. It also increases the water retention of soils, which reduces runoff and erosion that can pollute our water and helps to conserve water.

Supports a local economy

Minnesota’s composting industry supports about 700 jobs and produces $148 million in gross economic activity per year. The composting industry supports four to eight times more jobs on a per ton basis than landfilling operations.

Helps achieve our goal of zero waste to landfills

Getting organic materials out of the trash means that facilities like the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) that burn waste to generate energy have more capacity to help reduce the trash we send to landfills. In addition, sending organics materials to a composting facility is preferable to incineration for a number of reasons, including that organics recycling creates nutrient-rich compost and that burning wet organics is not energy efficient at waste-to-energy facilities.

The availability of organics recycling service depends on where you live.

Contact your city to ask about availability, or refer to the list below of organics recycling options.

If you live in a city where organics recycling is not offered, contact your city council members, mayor and hauling company to let them know you are interested in the service. And in the meantime, check to see if there are any drop-off options available that are convenient for you.

Service available to residents at no extra cost

In the following cities, if you have garbage and recycling service provided by the city, organics recycling is available to at no added cost, But you must sign up to participate.

Medicine Lake, Medina, Osseo, St. Bonifacius, Wayzata

Organics are collected in certified compostable blue bags provided by Randy’s and placed in your trash cart. The certified compostable bags are later separated from the trash bags and sent to a commercial composting facility. Sign up for the Randy's Blue Bag program.

Edina

Organics are collected in a separate green and black cart. Learn more about the Edina program.

Minneapolis

Organics are collected in a separate green cart. Learn more about the Minneapolis program.

St. Louis Park

Organics are co-collected with yard waste in a separate brown cart. Sign up for the St. Louis Park program.

Service available to all residents for an additional fee

Loretto and Maple Plain

Organics recycling is available to all residents in Loretto and Maple Plain for an additional cost through the Randy’s Blue Bag organics recycling program.

Organics are collected in certified compostable blue bags provided by Randy’s and placed in your trash cart. The certified compostable bags are later separated from the trash bags and sent to a commercial composting facility. Sign up for the Loretto or Maple Plain program.

Robbinsdale

Organics recycling is available to all Robbinsdale residents with city recycling and garbage service. Organics recycling is an additional cost of $6 per month. Sign up for the Robbinsdale program.

The organics recycling program will begin in 2019 once enough people have signed up, so residents should spread the word and encourage friends and neighbors to sign up as well.

Service available through specific haulers 

In the following cities, organics recycling is available to customers of Randy’s for an additional cost. Organics are collected in certified compostable blue bags provided by Randy’s and placed in your trash cart. The certified compostable bags are later separated from the trash bags and sent to a commercial composting facility.

  • Brooklyn Center
  • Brooklyn Park
  • Corcoran
  • Crystal
  • Dayton
  • Golden Valley
  • Greenfield
  • Greenwood
  • Hanover
  • Independence
  • Long Lake
  • Maple Grove
  • Minnetonka
  • Minnetrista
  • Mound
  • New Hope
  • Orono
  • Plymouth
  • Rogers
  • Shorewood

Organics recycling drop-offs can be a good option for residents that don’t have organics recycling service available yet. That includes those who live in cities where it isn’t offered and those who live in apartment buildings, condos and townhomes that don’t have access to their city’s residential service. 

Organics recycling drop-off locations

The following drop-off options are available.

Hennepin County drop-off facilities in Brooklyn Park and Bloomington

Organics are accepted for free Tuesday through Saturday during normal facility hours. Limit of five bags per person per day. Organics must be brought in BPI-certified compostable plastic bags. Learn more

Bloomington

There are two organics recycling drop-off sites available to Bloomington residents.

The sites are located at:

Both sites are free and open daily. Learn more about the Bloomington organics drop-off program.

Hopkins

Hopkins residential garbage customers may bring their household organics to the Minnetonka-Hopkins Recycling Center, 11522 Minnetonka Boulevard.

The drop off site is open 24/7. Learn more about organics recycling in Hopkins.

Minneapolis

There are 12 drop-off locations throughout Minneapolis for city residents, including at parks, the city’s South Transfer Station, and the Wedge Community Co-op locations. Learn more about Minneapolis locations and sign up.

Richfield

Two organics recycling drop-off sites are available for Richfield residents.

The sites are located at:

Learn more about the Richfield program.

St. Anthony Village

An organics recycling drop-off site is available for St. Anthony Village residents at city hall, 3301 Silver Lake Road. The drop-off site is open 24/7.

St. Louis Park

Drop-off sites are available for residents who live in apartment buildings and townhomes. Learn about multifamily recycling in St. Louis Park and sign up

You’re ready to start organics recycling at home. Great!

Some steps you may need to take to get started include making space for your cart, figuring out your setup room-by-room, and getting the supplies you need.

Making space for your cart

If you’re participating in a program where you get a separate cart for organics recycling (like in Minneapolis and St. Louis Park), determine where you will put your cart. To make space (and potentially save some money), you may be able to downsize to a smaller garbage cart.

Setting up room-by-room

Kitchen

Start here as this is where most organics recycling is generated.

You will generally need a collection container and compostable bags. Choose a container and location that will work for you.

If you have issues with pests or smells or want your compostable bags to last longer, consider keeping a container in the fridge or freezer for “wet” organics like fruits, vegetables and meat scraps.

Expand to other rooms

You can also collect organics in the bathroom, bedrooms and office.

Remember items like tissues, paper towels, cotton balls, hair and pet fur are accepted for organics recycling.

Getting the supplies you need

Collection containers

There are many options for collection containers. You can purchase simple to fancy countertop collection containers, convert an existing bin to an organics recycling bin, reuse a coffee can or ice cream pail, or use something as simple as a bowl on your kitchen counter. Choose something that works for you in your space.

Compostable bags

Most program require that you bag your organics before placing it in your cart.

Some program require that you use BPI-certified compostable plastic bags. These may be provided by your city or hauler, or they can be purchased at most retail or grocery stores or ordered online. If you are purchasing your own, you may want to try different brands as they will all perform differently.

Some programs also allow you to use paper bags for your organics – paper bags are compostable!

Check to see what items need to be bagged for your program. Some programs allow you to put larger items like pizza boxes from delivery and paper egg cartons into your cart without being bagged.

Labels for your bins

Well-labeled bins help everyone in your household know what goes where.

Certified compostable products

There can be a lot of confusion regarding compostability of paper and plastic plates, cups, bowls, containers and utensils.

Certified compostable products, including paper and plastic plates, bowls, cups, containers, and utensils, are accepted for organics recycling. Certified compostable products must have the BPI or Cedar Grove logo on them or the term “compostable” to be accepted.

Paper items that have a shiny or smooth surface, such as coffee cups, to-go containers, and ice cream tubs, likely have a plastic lining and are not accepted in the organics program unless they are identified as a certified compostable paper item.

If an item doesn’t have one of these logos and you’re unsure whether or not it’s compostable, it’s best to put that item in the trash. This will help ensure the organics recycling is clean and free of contamination.

Organics recycling requirement for cities

Cities are required to make organics recycling service available to all households with curbside recycling service by January 1, 2022. This generally includes single family households and buildings with up to four units. Cities with a population of 10,000 or less can choose to provide at least one organics recycling drop-off option instead of making curbside organics recycling service available.

This requirement was part of revisions the county made to its recycling ordinance in November 2018.

Cities that already meet the organics recycling requirement

Check with your city or hauler to sign up.

  • Loretto
  • Maple Plain
  • Medicine Lake
  • Medina
  • Minneapolis
  • Osseo
  • St. Louis Park
  • St. Bonifacius
  • Wayzata

Cities that must make organics recycling service available by January 1, 2022

Look for more information from your city or hauler about program timeline and how to sign up.

  • Bloomington
  • Brooklyn Center
  • Brooklyn Park
  • Champlin
  • Crystal
  • Eden Prairie
  • Edina
  • Golden Valley
  • Hopkins
  • Maple Grove
  • Minnetonka
  • New Hope
  • Plymouth
  • Richfield
  • Robbinsdale
  • Rogers

Cities that may choose to offer an organics recycling drop-off or organics recycling service by
January 1, 2022

Look for more information from your city or hauler about program set up.

  • Corcoran
  • Dayton
  • Deephaven
  • Excelsior
  • Greenfield
  • Greenwood
  • Hanover
  • Independence
  • Long Lake
  • Minnetonka Beach
  • Minnetrista
  • Mound
  • Orono
  • Rockford
  • Shorewood
  • St. Anthony
  • Spring Park
  • Tonka Bay
  • Woodland

Backyard composting is a great way to turn waste from your yard and kitchen into a nutrient-rich compost that you can use to improve your soil right at home.

Backyard composting differs from organics recycling in the list of materials accepted.

You can compost yard waste like leaves and grass clippings as well as fruit and vegetables scraps and coffee grounds at home.

You cannot put meat and dairy products into a backyard compost bin because the pile won’t reach as high of temperatures as a commercial composting facility.

Learn more about backyard composting and purchasing a compost bin.

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