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

New requirements

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:

2019 recycling progress report

The 2019 recycling progress report (PDF) summarizes the county's progress toward meeting our goals of recycling 75 percent of waste and sending no waste to landfills by 2030. The 2019 report focuses on the county's efforts to reduce waste and take action on climate change.

Amount of waste generated and recycling rate

In 2019, county residents and businesses discarded about 1.45 million tons of solid waste. This includes everything put into recycling, organics recycling, and trash. That is about a 3% increase over 2018, or about 40,000 tons more.

The county’s recycling rate, which includes conventional recycling and organics recycling, was 49%, about the same as in 2018. The remaining waste was managed as trash, with 22% going to waste-to-energy facilities and 29% to landfills. A greater proportion of garbage was sent to landfills in 2019 due to the closure of the Great River Energy Elk River Resource Recovery Project at the beginning of the year.

Looking back and looking ahead

The report reflects on 50 years of waste management in Hennepin County – from open dumps and burn barrels in the 1970s to the development of recycling, organics recycling, hazardous waste management, and waste prevention programs throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. 

Looking ahead to the future of environmental protection in Hennepin County, core services developed over the past 50 years to reduce and responsibly manage waste will continue. We are also focusing on making progress on our current priorities, which include taking action on climate change, expanding organics recycling, reducing food waste, and striving for zero waste.

2019 successes

The report highlights the following 2019 successes.

Reached out to businesses about food waste recycling requirements

Reached out to 2,000 businesses are required to have food waste recycling under the county’s revised recycling ordinance.

Started efforts to reduce construction and demolition waste

Launched efforts to salvage, reuse, and recycle building materials from construction and demolition projects.

Continued successful waste prevention efforts

Continued to see high interest and impressive results in waste prevention programs, including Fix-It Clinics, Zero Waste Challenge, and Master Recycler/Composter classes.

Supported the expansion of organics recycling

Distributed starter kits at farmers markets to promote organics recycling drop-offs, supported Robbinsdale in their roll out of citywide organics recycling, and provided grants to neighborhood groups in Minneapolis to conduct peer-to-peer outreach.

Educated on the importance of recycling the right stuff

Developed the Recycle Smart campaign to raise awareness about the importance of recycling the right stuff.

Increased recycling outreach to multifamily properties

Increased outreach to multifamily properties , providing support to more than 31,000 units at 166 properties.

Awarded recycling grants and provided recycling resources

Awarded grants to nearly 100 businesses and organizations and 18 schools to start or improve recycling programs and fulfilled 660 orders for recycling resources.

Presented recycling education

Presented 62 lessons on waste reduction, recycling, and organics recycling to nearly 4,000 students. Provided environmental education field trip transportation to 40 schools and organizations and offered tours at the county’s waste management facilities to about 1,500 participants.

Provided proper disposal of hazardous waste

Served nearly 150,000 residents at hazardous waste drop-off facilities and collection events, facilitating the proper disposal or recycling of more than 4,500 tons of waste.

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:

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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