Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Commercial Recycling

One of my goals on the Minneapolis City Council is to help reduce solid waste and manage it more effectively. I am very concerned about the amount of our waste going to landfills and to the downtown garbage burner.

To help address this, several months ago I authored an ordinance amendment that strengthened our recycling ordinances related to multifamily residential properties. This passed the City Council unanimously. I have also supported and helped develop pilot programs to explore organic waste curbside pick up programs and a more simplified recycling sorting system.

Last year I began work on an ordinance that would require recycling at commercial properties. As part of this work I researched what other cities do, and met with business owners, city staff and county officials. The Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce recently conducted a survey of businesses on recycling. The results indicated that over 90% of businesses currently recycle, with the supermajority recycling paper, cardboard, glass, metal and plastic; that over 90% of businesses have had no issues with their recycling service; and that 65% of businesses either supported or were neutral towards a commercial recycling mandate, the plurality of businesses, 48%, were supportive, and only 35% opposed a mandate.

The City has the capacity to enforce this new requirement. The Fire Department (MFD) has been charged with inspecting all commercial buildings in Minneapolis. MFD staff has assured me that it would be practical to include compliance with the recycling requirement as one of the things they look for.

Last fall I formally introduced "the subject matter" of a new ordinance in Minneapolis that would require commercial entities to recycle. Now the language has been drafted based on the following components and I am continuing to reach out to community and business organizations and individuals to get feedback.

Minimum Requirements

All commercial establishments that provide on-site garbage collection service shall also provide on-site recycling service that includes collection of materials for recycling at least equal to the level of service provided to the residents of Minneapolis.

An owner or other person required to provide recycling services will provide:
· regular collection service (at least two times each month);
· recycling receptacles and
· adequate recycling collection and storage areas.
An owner or other person required to provide recycling service to a business must provide recycling information and instructions to:
· its employees annually;
· a new employee no later than the seventh day after the employee begins work; and
· all employees not later than the 30th day after a change in the service offered.

Reporting Requirements

The building or business owner responsible for providing recycling services shall create a recycling plan within 14-30 days of beginning operations.
The recycling service provider/hauler shall file a semiannual volume report that includes the volume and type of recyclable materials collected in the preceding period. A person required to provide recycling service shall notify the department in writing if the person changes service providers.


Enforcement will be part of the regular commercial inspections program. In addition, tenants, employees, haulers or others can report out-of-compliance properties or businesses.

The penalty for noncompliance will include a written warning and a fine (likely starting at $200)that increases in amount with each consecutive violation. In extreme cases it could include the revocation of a license.

Technical Assistance

The City will develop a technical assistance program to help commercial business meet the minimum requirements of the ordinance. This will include providing lists of licensed haulers as well as help with development of collection infrastructure (areas and containers) as well as educational materials.


This ordinance amendment has been referred to staff by the City Council and the final language is being drafted. I am currently gathering input from the community on the proposal, clarifying details and drafting language. I suspect that it will be scheduled for a public hearing before the Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee early in 2011 and presented for approval to the full Council before April. If approved I will be advocating for an extensive outreach and education program prior to any enforcement.


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