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Good Question: What Happens To All The Trash At The Mall Of America?

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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) – Every year, 42 million people visit the more than 500 stores and restaurants at the Mall of America. Ultimately, that translates into an annual average about 10,000 tons of trash — or about 28 tons per day.

Over the years, the mall has figured out some pretty creative ways to get rid of it all. Up to 60 percent of the waste is recycled, between 30-35 percent is sent to the county’s burner and 5-10 percent taken to a landfill. The city of Bloomington and Hennepin County do not have any specific requirements for business recycling, but do offer grants and tax breaks to companies that do.

“If we didn’t care, we’d make a heck of a mess,” said Lydell Newby, the mall’s environmental services manager.

Eventually, all of the trash makes its way to the basement of the mall to be sorted, handled and, in some cases, shipped away.

Every month, 150 tons of food scraps from the restaurants are sent to a hog farm in Cedar, Minn. The used cooking oil is also re-used after being transformed into cleaning supplies for the mall’s basement floors or biodiesel fuel for the mall’s maintenance vehicles.

Each of the tenants – restaurants and stores – sort their recyclables, but the mall’s environmental services crew sort through it by hand once again.

“These guys go through by hand, there’s no sort machine down here,” Newby said. “There’s 21 hardworking guys down here that go through this stuff by hand.”

Nearly 85 percent of the waste comes from the tenants, the other 15 percent percent from the visitors. In the past, the mall tried recycling cans for the common areas, but ended the practice because too many people threw out food and drinks with the cans and bottles.

“We had over 50-60 percent contamination in those containers,” Newby said.

Now, the liquid is extracted from the visitor trash and the solids that are left over are sent to the Hennepin Energy Recovery Burner.

Newby says the mall is once again looking again at ways to sort out the recyclables in the visitor areas.

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