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Good Question: Will A Mpls. Recycling Experiment Work?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The city of Minneapolis is testing a new way to recycle. A pilot program will evaluate whether the city should kick its sorting policies to the curb and opt for a method known as single sort recycling.

“What that means is residents just have to put all their recycling into one big container,” said Heidi Hamilton, the deputy director of public works for the city of Minneapolis. She said Minneapolis currently won’t pick up recycling unless cans, glass, plastic, newspapers, cardboard, paper, etc., are separated and sorted.

“Can we increase recycling if we make it more convenient? But, we also want to understand how the costs are affected,” said Hamilton.

The one-sort pilot started this week in Willard Hay and will begin Aug. 23 in East Calhoun. The city of Minneapolis rolled out new recycling carts, which look like garbage cans with blue lids, to about 470 households in the Willard Hay neighborhood and about 560 households in East Calhoun, where people won’t need to sort over the next year.

Hamilton said the goal is get more people to recycle and motivate dedicated recyclers to salvage even more. According to Hennepin County Environmental Services, around 41 percent of all waste in the county was recycled in 2010. Minneapolis lags behind with only 35 percent of total garbage recycled in the city last year.

Willard Hay resident Ora Lee Law, 77, said she doesn’t mind sorting but believes the new method will be easier.

“It’s really just a wonderful thing and it’s really nice and it’s huge too. I don’t have to separate anything, just throw it in there,” said Law.

Her neighbor, Christa Landon, is an avid composter and recycler who said she realizes not all her neighbors are willing to sort.

“The downside is that somebody has to sort it, sooner or later,” she said.

Hamilton said that’s true. Less recycling means less revenue for the city, and the current sorting method brings in the most funds to keep the program’s costs down.

“If we mix all the recycling up together, and if we have to pay an additional fee to sort it back out, to sell that recyclable material, what is the cost impact of that?” said Hamilton.

The city will have a policy discussion with council members next year to analyze cost and evaluate factors including whether more garbage gets in the new recycling bins. Part of the experiment will include sorting through garbage cans.

“We actually want to look at the garbage and determine what percent of the garbage is material that could have been recycled?” said Hamilton.

Ora Lee Law said she’ll gladly try out the new process with the thought that a good idea shouldn’t go to waste.

“Oh yes, I can hardly wait, think I’ll go in the house and get some now,” she laughed.

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