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Good Question: How Does Minnesota Rank In Recycling?

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(credit: CBS) Heather Brown
Heather Brown loves to put her innate curiosity to work to answer yo...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota is considering a new recycling program where you could return your drink containers for 10 cents a piece.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency held a public hearing to release a report that argued our can and bottle recycling rate could rise from 45 percent to 84 percent with a 10-cent deposit fee.

The report said a new program would add 1,000 jobs in the state, but costs beverage producers $29 million.

So that had us wondering: How does Minnesota rank in recycling?

Wayne Gjerde with the MPCA says that even with that lower bottle and can recycling rate, Minnesota is still in the top three overall.

In 1991, the state required every Minnesotans to be guaranteed the opportunity to recycle, whether curbside or drop-off. Oregon and California have similar rates.

“Minnesota is probably one of the most progressive states out there,” Gjerde said.

Every year, Minnesotans create 5.7 million tons of waste. Of that waste, 30 percent ends up in a landfill, 21 percent is burned or incinerated and 46 percent is recycled. The national average for recycling is 35 percent.

Angie Timmons with Hennepin County Environmental Services says half of our trash comes from inside our homes.

“We’re really good at recycling at home,” Timmons said. “Where we need to do some work is away from home or at work.”

Businesses in Minnesota are not required to recycle, but some cities – like Bloomington and Minneapolis – have city ordinances that encourage it.

Timmons says the enforcement, however, can be spotty.

“[Business] recycling is kind of on the goodwill of the employees or the employers,” she said.

The recycling rates are similar across the state: 44 percent in Greater Minnesota and 47 percent in urban areas.

Paper makes up a little less than half of our recycling, followed by other metals, organic, glass and plastic.

According to a research study conducted in Hennepin County, about a third of what ends up in Minnesota landfills could be recycled.

“We find that people do a really good job with the basic recycling, but what they’re missing is some of the new things that have been added,” Timmons said.

Those new items include yogurt containers, deli trays and milk cartons.

Since 2000, the rate of recycling has stayed relatively constant, except for a small spike from the transition in some cities to single sort.

As for why? Wayne Gjerde of the MPCA says that’s a question he’d like answered.

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