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.