MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hennepin County is leading the nation when it comes to what some consider extreme recycling — it just wrapped up a “Zero Waste Challenge” pilot program for waste management.

Thirty-five homes took part in the year long program to drastically reduce waste through recycling, composting and other methods.

Being green comes naturally for Emily Green and her family — that’s why they decided to take part in Hennepin County’s Zero Waste Challenge.

“My daughter is pretty active, she’s a teenager, she heard about it and she just thought it would be great for us to challenge ourselves to do a little more,” Emily Green said. “She thought we could do a little more, so we rose to the challenge”

The county provided training courses and resources, working one-on-one with households in an effort to reduce their waste as much as possible. It’s the only program of its kind in the country.

“When we got the idea to launch this program, we were looking at other programs to model it off of and we couldn’t find anything,” Zero Waste Challenge coordinator Carolyn Collopy said. “We looked to a city in France as a program to base this one off of.”

And it was aggressive — from recycling, composting, reusing and supplying families with a trash bin half the size of a regular one, along with a scale. Every week, families weighed everything and logged the numbers. They were also provided advice when needed.

“For a lot of them, they still had a lot of questions about what could go in the recycling bin,”

One of the big takeaways for participants was learning which waste products are compostable. The key is to look for the “certified BPI” logo.

On average participants ended up throwing out 62 percent less trash in the garbage can, and gaining a lot of eco-friendly knowledge.

“All in all, it was a really fun bonding experience for our family,” Emily Green said.

As for the half-size bin in the Green’s alleyway, — not only does it not get full, Green says they only throw out one bag per week.

After the pilot program’s success, the county already launched another round of Zero Waste Challenge with 47 new households.


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