MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thousands of businesses in the metro will soon be forced to start composting and recycling their food waste. It’s part of a new ordinance Hennepin County created for businesses producing more than a ton of trash every week.

The businesses that will be impacted by this composting mandate are some of the biggest food waste producers out there– restaurants, grocery stores and big hotels like the Hilton downtown– where thousands of meals can be produced on any given day.

When uneaten food comes back into the Hilton kitchen, it goes into a food waste bin.

The hotel prepares thousands of meals on any given day. That means the 55 gallon food waste bins fill up fast.

“We’re talking a couple of tons per month of just food waste recycling,” said Dale Nelson, Director of Property Operations for the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis.

But this food waste doesn’t go to a landfill.

“The stewards bring those buckets into the pig bucket room which is an appropriate name, I thought,” said Nelson.

The food waste goes to a farm to feed animals. By next year, every business in Hennepin County that produces more than a ton of trash per week will have to compost its food waste or do a farm recycling program like the one at the Hilton.

“When food goes to the landfill it generates methane,” said Amy Maas, a Business Recycling Specialist with Hennepin County.

Maas says some businesses could be composting half of the things it puts in the trash.

The new ordinance is modeled after others like it in cities such as Seattle and Austin, but it’s one of the first of its kind in the Midwest.

“I’ve seen businesses where it costs more. I’ve seen businesses where its neutral, and I’ve seen businesses that save money,” said Maas.

“It can save us several thousand dollars a month in recycling,” said Nelson.

Nelson says it’s been good for business, too, as more customers are interested in the hotel chain’s business practices. Hennepin County hopes other businesses will feel the same benefits.

“We’re not going to come out and fine people right away, we want to help them to get there, walk through it with them,” said Maas.

Businesses have to be compliant by January 1, 2020. Health inspectors and others from Hennepin County will be enforcing the new ordinance next year.

Eventually, businesses could be fined if they are not composting or recycling food waste. If you need assistance, contact Hennepin County.

Erin Hassanzadeh

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