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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.

Share your ideas for a zero-waste future

We want to hear from you! Participate in developing Hennepin County’s Zero Waste Plan by telling us about your experiences in recycling, composting and ideas to reduce waste on our new engagement site. Residents who register on the website can engage with other community members, post ideas, and stay informed as the plan progresses. 

Take a survey

Take the Zero Waste plan survey on the engagement site or directly via this link

Consultant team

The county solicited multiple proposals to hire consultants and community groups to work with county staff to develop this plan. The consulting team and their roles include:

Zero Waste Plan community engagement partners

Eighteen community groups were selected to receive funding to support community engagement with the Zero Waste Plan. These groups will be responsible for providing input on engagement plans for their communities, hosting engagement sessions, and communicating updates to their members on the process and feedback opportunities. As a cohort, these groups will work together to gain a broader understanding of the solid waste system, develop community-identified solutions, and define themes for use in the subsequent plan development phase. 

  • Action to Equity  
  • Audubon Neighborhood Association  
  • Center for Hmong Arts and Talent 
  • Climate Generation/Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota (YEA! MN)
  • Community Power  
  • Congregations Caring for Creation
  • Eastside Neighborhood Services  
  • Ebenezer Oromo Evangelical Church  
  • Encouraging Leaders  
  • Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota  
  • Little Earth Protectors
  • McKinley Community  
  • MN Renewable Now  
  • NoMi Roots  
  • Off The Blue Couch  
  • Somali American Women Action Center  
  • Resilient Cities and Communities with Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia 
  • Thai Cultural Council of Minnesota  

Solid waste consultant 

Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) was hired as the solid waste consultant to identify gaps in the county’s existing solid waste system, review the solid waste systems of leading zero-waste communities, conduct stakeholder engagement, and coordinate work groups to develop strategies.

Facilitation and community engagement consultant

Antonia Apolinário-Wilcoxon, Ed.D. of Equity Strategies was hired as a facilitator to support the plan’s broad community engagement process with a strong focus on equity and disparity reduction. One key responsibility of the facilitator is to coordinate a cohort of 18 community groups that will be focused on engaging residents who have traditionally been left out of solid waste planning processes and are potentially more burdened by the current solid waste system. 

As a skilled local facilitator, Dr. Apolinário-Wilcoxon will provide transparency and neutrality in discussions and analysis of feedback regarding concerns and opportunities related to the county’s solid waste system. 

2020 recycling progress report

The 2020 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 2020 results for the county’s waste management programs.

Amount of waste generated and recycling rate

About 1.24 million tons of solid waste, which includes recycling, organics, and trash, was generated in Hennepin County in 2020. That is a 1% decrease from 2019, or about 7,000 tons less. Of the total tons generated, 42% was managed as recycling and organics. The remaining 58% was managed as trash at a waste-to-energy facility or landfill.

The impact of COVID-19 and changes to waste reporting contributed to shifts in waste management data in 2020 compared to previous years. As offices, businesses, and schools shut down in spring 2020 and people spent more time at home, the amount of waste generated shifted from the commercial sector to residential.

Results and strategies

The report highlights the county’s results and strategies going forward in the following areas:

Continuing important services during a challenging time

Throughout the challenges and disruptions of 2020, the county continued to provide disposal services and conduct inspections, pivoted to virtual offerings, adjusted to meet the needs of the community, and made progress on many priority initiatives.

Connecting zero waste and climate action

Strategies to reduce waste and increase the sustainability of materials are important components to achieving the county’s goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The county’s Climate Action Plan includes strategies to prevent food waste, divert organic materials from the trash, reuse and recycle construction and demolition waste, understand the climate impacts of our purchases and mitigate the larges impacts, and advocate for state leadership on zero waste policies and producer responsibility.

Achieving more through collaboration

Through the Partnership on Waste and Energy (PWE), a Joint Powers Agreement between the Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy Board and Hennepin County, the county made progress on anaerobic digestion development, online training for hazardous waste generators, and a consumer education campaign on battery disposal. The county also provided statewide leadership on product stewardship.

Focusing on organics

Organic materials are the largest proportion of our trash — making up about 25% of the trash stream. Diverting organic materials, which include food, food-soiled paper, and compostable products, is the biggest opportunity to reduce our trash. This involves many different strategies, including food waste prevention, food rescue for hunger relief, food-to-animals, composting, and anaerobic digestion.

Making progress on implementing master plan strategies

Many of the county’s programs adapted to health and safety guidelines in order to continue to provide services and engage residents. The report highlights results in recycling organics, preventing waste, conducting education and outreach, serving residents at home, work, school, and on-the-go, promoting drop-offs for hazardous waste and additional recyclables, and recovering resources from the trash.

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.

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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