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Solid waste planning

Hennepin County has goals of recycling 75 percent of waste and sending zero waste to landfills by 2030.

The county's solid waste management master plan outlines our strategies for meeting these goals. The annual recycling progress report provides updates on our efforts and highlights our commitment to making progress toward our goals.

In addition, the county establishes ordinances that govern solid waste management and conducts research to support solid waste planning initiatives.

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About the Zero Waste Plan

In August 2021, the county board passed a resolution directing staff to develop an operational plan to map Hennepin County to a zero-waste future that includes a broad community engagement process with a strong focus on equity and disparity reduction. The county’s zero-waste resolution calls for a draft zero-waste plan to be presented at a Board Briefing in November 2022.

Hennepin County’s zero-waste vision is a waste management system where all materials are designed to become resources for others to use to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. The key performance measure is diverting 90% or more of all discarded materials from landfills and incinerators.

Join a Zero Waste Plan work group

Hennepin County is developing a Zero Waste Plan that is being guided by a broad community engagement process with a strong focus on equity and disparity reduction.
The county is seeking residents and representatives from businesses, community organizations, and multifamily properties to participate in work groups to develop actions for the Zero Waste Plan. Work groups will learn about challenges and opportunities to achieve zero waste, review and propose actions that will accelerate the county’s path to zero waste, and finalize recommended actions for inclusion in the Zero Waste Plan.

Participating in a work group will take 10 to 15 hours of total time, including four evening meetings and some work between meetings.

Learn more about participating on an action planning work group, including the seven focus areas of the work groups, schedule, and more information about what the work groups will do.

Registration closed on Tuesday, July 12.

What we heard the community wants in a zero-waste future

During the first phase of community engagement for the Zero Waste Plan in spring 2022, the county sought to understand the community’s experiences and concerns with the solid waste management system and learn their priorities and ideas for solutions.

To gather that feedback, the county worked with a cohort of community groups to hold conversations with residents who have traditionally been left out of the solid waste planning process, gathered responses through a variety of online engagement tools, and met with industry stakeholders.

The following key findings emerged from the first phase of engagement:

  • Offer more recycling options and create better, more equitable access to services, especially in multifamily settings.
  • Put the responsibility on businesses and producers of materials to create a system that provides more options to reduce and recycle, especially when it comes to plastics.
  • Increase education and outreach on what is recyclable, what services are available, why recycling is important, and the impact of the materials we throw away.
  • Change the cost structure to emphasize recycling over trash, offer incentives that reward good behavior, and invest in community-based solutions.
  • Invest in zero waste initiatives and act urgently.

Read more about what we heard from the community during the first phase of community engagement.

Stay informed

Broad public engagement to gather feedback on the recommended actions will occur in September and October. Information about ways to give feedback will be shared on beheardhennepin.org and through Zero Waste Plan email updates.

2021 recycling progress report

The 2021 recycling progress report (PDF) provides an update on implementation of Hennepin County’s Solid Waste Management Master Plan, progress toward waste diversion goals, and a summary of the 2021 results for the county’s waste management programs.

Recycling Progress Report highlights transformative changes needed to move toward zero waste

Achieving zero waste will require significant changes in our individual behaviors and transformative changes in the policies, programs and resources that make up the solid waste system. The 2021 Recycling Progress Report sheds light on the transformative changes that are needed.

Moving toward zero waste

About 1.3 million tons of solid waste, which includes recycling, organics, and trash, were generated in Hennepin County in 2021. That is a 5% increase from 2020, or about 64,500 tons more.

Of the total tons generated, 39% was managed as recycling and organics. The remaining 61% was managed as trash at a waste-to-energy facility or landfill.

Despite implementing many new waste reduction and recycling programs and policies over the past 20 years, it has been challenging to achieve a diversion rate greater than 50%.

The county has made progress in several key areas, including preventing food waste, preventing waste at businesses, and increasing the salvage, reuse, and recycling of building materials. But we know behavior change is only part of the solution, and policy solutions and systems change are needed.

Recognizing the need to go bigger, the county started the development of a Zero Waste Plan.

Adjusting to a new normal

Hennepin County continued a thoughtful and intentional transition to a new normal in 2021.

The county resumed many vital services, such as resuming normal operations at the drop-off facilities and once again offering hazardous waste collection events.

Some services remained on hold, such as in-person Fix-It Clinics, and engagement at events continued to be limited.

We continued to have success with online engagement for many programs, including with the Zero Waste Challenges and Master Recycler/Composter courses.

Expanding residential organics recycling programs

Many cities rolled out organics recycling programs in advance of the county’s requirement for cities to offer organics recycling by January 1, 2022. The county helped cities develop and launch their programs by offering support with contracting and promotions.

The county also continues to push for more organics recycling capacity to meet increased demand.

Focusing on disparity reduction

There continues to be a need for better access to services and more resources for recycling programs, especially in multifamily settings.

The county started applying the Racial Equity Impact Tool, which helps identify how to reduce disparities and increase equity, to waste reduction and recycling programs. Programs that have used the Racial Equity Impact Tool so far include school recycling grants, the Master Recycler/Composter program, and updates to the county’s residential recycling funding policy, which guides how the county allocates funding from the state to cities.

About the plan

The Hennepin County Solid Waste Management Master Plan for 2018 - 2023 identifies strategies the county will pursue to reach the goals of recycling 75 percent of waste and sending zero waste to landfills by 2030. State statute requires metro counties to prepare master plans every six years that identify strategies to meet the recycling goals and objectives in the state’s Metropolitan Area Solid Waste Management Policy Plan.

The plan was adopted by the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners on November 28, 2017.

See the Hennepin County Solid Waste Management Master Plan for 2018–2023 (PDF) to learn about the proposed strategies and next steps.

Strategies included in the plan

The master plan includes the following strategies to help meet our goals of increasing recycling, preventing waste, and sending zero waste to landfills:

  • Focus on organics recycling, which is the greatest opportunity to reduce our trash, by proposing requirements for cities and certain businesses, increasing local capacity to manage organics, and working to prevent food waste.
  • Build momentum for waste prevention and reuse by better understanding consumption habits and promoting waste prevention actions.
  • Continue to serve residents where they are, including with single-family and multifamily residences and at work, school and on-the-go.
  • Expand drop-off disposal options for certain materials.
  • Divert construction and demolition waste.
  • Support the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's environmental justice policy, which aligns with the county's disparity reduction efforts.

The strategies were development based on feedback gathered through public engagement efforts from March through October 2017. See the summary of formal comments (PDF).

Supporting materials

The following supporting materials provide more context and in-depth information for the plan:

Hennepin County is proposing to build an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility adjacent to the county’s Brooklyn Park Transfer Station at 9401 83rd Avenue in the City of Brooklyn Park. The facility would be capable of processing a minimum of 25,000 tons per year of organics to produce clean, renewable energy and beneficial products such as nutrient-rich soil.

This facility will help the county make progress toward zero waste and climate action goals. Learn more about the AD facility.

Developing a producer responsibility policy for packaging

The Partnership on Waste and Energy, which is a collaborative effort of Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington counties, partnered with the Product Stewardship Institute to develop a producer responsibility bill for packaging and paper products in Minnesota. The policy is being developed to meet the interests of key stakeholders and will prevent waste, increase recycling, and save cities millions of dollars.

About producer responsibility

Producer responsibility policies hold producers of a product and packaging responsible for that produce throughout its entire lifecycle — from product design all the way through to reuse, recycling, or safe disposal.

Producer responsibility for packaging across the U.S.

The policy development in Minnesota is occurring in tandem with the development of producer responsibility legislation for packaging and paper products in states across the country. Since 2019, a dozen U.S. states have introduced producer responsibility for packaging legislation. The first two laws in the U.S. passed in Oregon and Maine in 2021.

With city recycling costs rising and consumer pressure mounting for brands to take action, momentum for producer responsibility bills for packaging and paper products has steadily grown.

Minnesota’s producer responsibility bill for packaging and paper products bill will benefit from the experiences of states that have been working with the Product Stewardship Institute to develop similar legislation and will contribute to the nationwide groundswell of activity in support of a more just and sustainable waste management system.

Timeline for the producer responsibility policy in Minnesota

Phase I: November 2021 to May 2022

A committee with representatives from local government, the state, industry, and environmental groups convened to develop and draft elements of a producer responsibility bill for packaging and paper products customized to Minnesota.

Phase II: June 2022 to May 2023

A series of stakeholder meetings will be held during summer 2022 to solicit feedback on the draft elements of the producer responsibility bill for packaging and paper products.

Feedback will be incorporated into the in fall 2022 and a bill will be developed to be introduced in the 2023 Minnesota legislative session.

Supporters will be asked to sign on to the coalition to get the bill introduced and passed at the Minnesota legislature.

Learn more

See the following documents to learn more:

If you have questions about this effort, would like to request a presentation, or want to submit feedback, contact Mallory Anderson at mallory.anderson@hennepin.us or 612-348-3837.

Recycling requirements: Ordinance 13

Hennepin County revised its recycling ordinance on November 27, 2018.

New requirements

Solid waste management fee: Ordinance 15

About the ordinance

The Hennepin County Solid Waste Management Fee: Ordinance 15 was established in 1994 to fund environmental programs that protect human and environmental health. These programs include waste prevention, recycling and organics recycling, environmental education, and environmental protection programs.

The ordinance requires waste haulers to charge a fee on trash service and remit this fee to the county. The fee is not applied to recycling or organics recycling services.

Percentage rate for solid waste management fee

Effective April 1, 2019, the percentage rate of the Solid Waste Management Fee for all mixed waste services provided in Hennepin County:

  • Residential rate: 15.5%
  • Nonresidential rate change: 21.5%

Rate questions

For questions about how this rate is applied, please contact your waste hauler or Hennepin County staff:

Residential food waste reduction study

Hennepin County conducted a consumer behavior research study in 2021 to design and test optimal messaging strategies to help residents overcome barriers to preventing wasted food. The study utilized focus groups in three distinct cohorts that intentionally received differing levels of communication throughout the study. The purpose was to assess whether varying levels of consumer engagement had an impact on projected behavior change.

Key findings and recommendations

  • Develop campaign content that appeals to specific demographic groups such as families, singles, older adults, young adults, and children.
  • Create outreach messaging that is simple, quick to read, and emphasizes money savings as a key motivator.
  • Emphasize that changing behavior requires addressing multiple behaviors in four specific phases: planning, purchase, preparation, and preservation.
  • Cultivate key partnerships such as local grocery stores and provide message placement in locations that will reach consumers at each stage of the decision-making process (planning, food acquisition, consumption, and disposal).

Learn more

Read the engaging residents to reduce food waste report (PDF).

Residential waste sort study

Hennepin County conducted a waste sort in 2016 to learn more about what residents are throwing away and what opportunities we are missing to recycle more.

The study involved sorting residential trash from Minneapolis into new categories to get better, more specific information about what could be recycled now but is not, and what opportunities need to be developed to increase recycling in the future.

Key findings

  • Recycling organic materials is the biggest opportunity to reduce our trash.
  • Residents are doing a pretty good job of recycling, but there are still opportunities to improve. We could be recycling more paper and cardboard, and people are confused about plastics.
  • There are opportunities to improve recycling of materials that are not accepted in curbside recycling programs, including clothing, plastic bags and film, electronics, mattresses, and scrap metal.
  • ‬‬Reducing the amount of waste generated is the first place is the most impactful waste management practice, and there is considerable potential to improve waste prevention.

Learn more

Multifamily waste study

Hennepin County conducted a waste study in 2017 to assess how well apartment and condo buildings were recycling. The study looked at the recycling diversion rate, contamination levels in the recycling, and the composition of what was being discarded as trash.

Key findings

  • Apartment buildings have low recycling rates and high contamination rates
  • There are significant opportunities to divert more materials from the trash
  • Service levels are not adequate

Learn more

Read the full multifamily waste study report (PDF).

Construction and demolition waste study

Hennepin County commissioned a study in 2015 to assess the capacity for diverting construction and demolition waste through recycling and reuse of materials. These materials include wood, concrete, cardboard, metals, asphalt shingles, sheetrock, vinyl siding, textiles, carpet, brick and more.

The study found that more than 810,000 tons of construction and demolition materials were generated 2013, and 30 percent of those materials were recycled.

Key findings

  • The cost of construction and demolition landfill disposal needs to be higher to incentivize higher diversion rates.
  • There is ample facility capacity in the metro area to collect and process more construction and demolition waste.
  • Diversion of high value and/or readily reusable residential building materials, including cabinets, fixtures and old growth wood, is generally not optimized, and a significant amount of these materials are being landfilled.
  • There is a lack of awareness about retail outlets for reused building materials. Physical space to store and sell these materials is one of several barriers to growth of this market.
  • Deconstruction, a technique that carefully dismantles a building to salvage materials for reuse, can divert up to 90% of the waste material generated from building removal. The practice is used on larger commercial projects, but few contractors currently provide this service for residential properties.

Learn more

See the construction and demolition diversion capacity study (PDF).

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