Solid waste planning

Hennepin County is a national leader in waste reduction and recycling. To identify strategies for increasing recycling and minimizing landfilling, the county develops the Hennepin County Solid Waste Management Master Plan. The plan is developed to manage solid waste in accordance with the Waste Management Act and as required by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The county also conducts research to support solid waste planning initiatives and produces an annual progress report with updates on achieving our recycling goals.

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Revising recycling ordinance 13

Hennepin County revised its recycling ordinance (Ordinance #13 source separation of solid waste) on November 27, 2018. This revision process was initiated when the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners adopted the Solid Waste Management Master Plan in November 2017.

New requirements

  • Requirements for businesses that generate large quantities of food waste to implement food recycling by January 1, 2020.
  • Requirements for cities to offer curbside organics recycling service to residents by January 1, 2022.
  • Updates to the multifamily recycling requirements to add service level standards and education and labeling requirements.
  • Requirements for businesses to meet the state recycling requirements, service level standards, and labeling requirements. 

Ordinance revisions

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners adopted the final ordinance revisions on November 27, 2018.

Completed engagement efforts

Deliberation at the county board meeting—November 27, 2018

Staff presented the final changes made to ordinance since the public hearing.

Public hearing—October 2, 2018

A public hearing on the proposed revision to Ordinance 13 was held before the Public Works Committee of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners on October 2, 2018. The opportunity to testify at the hearing or provide written comments was communicated broadly to residents, cities, trade associations, and businesses. The county sent letters about the hearing to 16,000 potentially affected businesses.

See the summary of the public hearing (PDF).

Public comment period—July 2018 through August 2018

The county distributed its draft revisions to the recycling ordinance on July 23, 2018, to seek input from cities, businesses, waste haulers and others that may be affected by the ordinance revisions. The ordinance 13 public comment findings report (PDF) provides a summary of the 350 comments received on the proposed language of the ordinance revisions. Staff reviewed the comments and made edits to the ordinance based on this feedback.

Stakeholder input process

From December 2017 through April 2018, county staff engaged city representatives, trade associations, waste haulers, property managers, businesses and the broader community to seek input on the ordinance language.  

See the recycling ordinance #13: public engagement findings report (PDF) for a summary of the public engagement activities and key findings from this effort. 


Key tasks and the associated timelines for this effort include:

  • Stakeholder engagement: January to April 2018
  • Draft ordinance revisions: March to May 2018
  • Recommendations presented by staff to board at a briefing: July 2018
  • Solicited feedback from stakeholders on ordinance language: August 2018
  • The county board held a public hearing to receive testimony from the public: October 2018
  • Board deliberation and approval of the ordinance revisions: November 27, 2018. 

Solid waste management master 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:

Recycling in Hennepin County

In 2015, 46 percent of waste generated in Hennepin County was diverted to recycling or organics recycling. The recycling rate in the county has increased steadily but slowly over the past few years. Recycling alone has increased 5 percent since 2010. However, significant changes in behavior and waste management methods will be needed to achieve our recycling goals.

2016 waste sort study

Hennepin County conducted a waste sort 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

  • Recycle organic waste: Recycling organic materials, which include food and compostable paper, is the biggest opportunity to reduce our trash. Organics make up about 25 percent of our trash, and not many people are participating in organics recycling programs yet.
  • Recycle more paper and cardboard: Residents are doing a pretty good job of recycling, but there are still opportunities to improve. The study found we could be recycling more paper and cardboard, and people are still confused about what plastics can be recycled. 
  • Use drop-off options: There are opportunities to improve recycling of materials that are not accepted in curbside recycling programs. Clothing ‭can be brought to donation centers for reuse and ‭recycling, plastic bags and film can be recycled at many ‭grocery and retail stores, and there are drop-off options ‭to recycle electronics, mattresses and scrap metal.
  • Focus on waste prevention: The study found that there’s still a lot of trash in the trash. Several materials in the top 10 list of items in the trash don’t have good reuse or recycling markets. This includes diapers, pet waste, non-recyclable plastic and paper, home improvement waste, and small items (those that are less than half an inch in size). ‬‬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

Recycling progress report

The 2017 Recycling Progress Report (PDF) summarizes the county’s progress toward meeting its recycling goals in 2017.

This edition of the report wraps up the waste management strategies developed in the 2012 Solid Waste Management Master Plan and outlines a vision to move forward to reach the goal of recycling and composting 75 percent of waste by 2030.

The recycling and composting rate in the county has hovered around 50 percent for the past three years. The 2018 Master Plan strategies going forward will continue programs that have proven results, such as school and multifamily recycling, as well as further developing new, creative programs like the zero waste challenge and food waste prevention efforts. 

However, to reach our goals, the plan includes an increased focus on organics recycling. New strategies include considering organics requirements for cities and some businesses as well as supporting the development of infrastructure to manage more organic waste.

Multifamily waste study

Hennepin County conducted a waste study (PDF) 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. The results highlighted the following conclusions and next steps.

Apartment buildings have low recycling rates and high contamination rates

The study found that 13.2 percent of everything being discarded by apartment and condo residents is being diverted for recycling. This is significantly lower than the countywide recycling rate of 41 percent. 

There is also a lot of contamination in the recycling. About 24 percent of what was put in the recycling was actually trash.

Hennepin County will continue to focus on educating residents about what is recyclable and better labeling recycling and trash containers.

There are significant opportunities to divert more materials from the trash

Analysis of the trash found that only 30 percent was truly trash. The remaining 71 percent was materials that likely could be diverted. This included organics (33 percent), recycling (23 percent), bulky/reusable household goods (8 percent), textiles (7 percent) and hazardous waste or electronics (2 percent).

Hennepin County will continue to work with properties to increase their recycling service, add organics recycling, and help residents donate usable household goods and properly dispose of household hazardous waste. 

Service levels are not adequate

The study also found that typical service levels may not be adequate to collect the amount of recycling generated at apartment and condo buildings. On average, properties provided half the amount of service capacity for recycling as they did for trash. 

The county will emphasize increasing recycling service at properties to establish a recycling to trash service ratio of at least 1:1.

Read the full report

Read the full multifamily waste study report (PDF) to learn more.


Construction and demolition waste study

Hennepin County commissioned a study by Foth Infrastructure and Environment, LLC 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 according to figures from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency cited in the study.

Key findings from the study include:

  • The price of construction and demolition landfilling is around $40 per ton in the metro area. Other studies have found that construction and demolition landfill disposal needs to be at least $50 per ton 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. On large commercial projects, such as the Vikings stadium, materials are often removed for reuse or recycling. However, few contractors currently provide this service in the metro area for residential properties.  

Hennepin County will be using the findings of the study to determine actions that should be considered to realize opportunities to increase diversion of construction and demolition materials from landfills. 

See the Construction and Demolition Diversion Capacity Study (PDF) to learn more.  

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