By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – You’ve heard about the bad challenges on social media, but there’s also a trending challenge that’s doing a lot of good.

People across the country are picking up litter and tagging their photos #trashtag. That had viewers like Norm wondering: Where does our trash go? Good Question.

As Heather Brown found, it depends on where you live.

In 2017, Minnesotans got rid of almost 6 million tons of waste. Organics make up about 11 percent of waste. Recycling makes up 1/3 and trash makes up 55 percent.

“Those things all go to different places,” said Peder Sandhei, with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Organics are often composted and recycling gets made into new materials.

“Minnesota has a state law that anything collected for recycling, gets recycled,” Sandhei said.

So, let’s focus in on the trash. Statewide, about 56 percent of it ends up in a landfill with the rest going to facilities that turn waste into energy, like the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center next to Target Field in Minneapolis.

“Most of the trash in Hennepin County will come here,” said Angie Timmons, with Hennepin County.

Timmons says the waste is first sorted, it’s then burned in a furnace lined with water-filled tubes, creating steam that is converted into energy and sold to power companies.

Most of the trash from Minneapolis and first-ring suburbs comes to Hennepin Energy Recovery Center. State law requires waste energy plants to be filled before going to landfills.

Across Minnesota, there are 21 landfills and seven waste energy plants, which don’t take out the recyclables.

“Sixty-three percent of what we do discard as trash could still be recovered as recyclable material, so we want people to do a really good job of pulling that material out of trash,” Sandhei said.

You’ve heard the saying reduce, reuse and recycle before throwing anything out – that’s actually in our state’s law when it comes to waste.

By 2030, Hennepin County wants to get to 75 percent recycling and no waste in the landfills.

Heather Brown

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