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:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Single and Dual Stream Recycling

The Council's Transportation and Public Works committee has received a very interesting report on single-stream and dual-stream recycling systems.  In a single-stream system, residents place all recyclables in the same container.  In a dual-stream system, residents place all containers (glass, aluminum and plastic) in one container, and all fibers (paper, newspaper, cardboard) in another.  Some key takeaways:
  • If we transition to single or dual sort, we are not likely to see any significant decrease in the revenue we make from recycled material, but are likely to see an increase in the recycling rate and the efficiency of our recycling service.
  • Many, if not most, other major cities in the US have switched from the multi-sort systems that most cities adopted in the 1980s to single- or dual-stream collection.
  • Customers of single and dual stream systems like them.
  • It is possible to switch to a dual or single stream system without increasing costs.
The committee directed Public Works staff to return with a recommendation on a new recycling program that best balances the values of cost effectiveness, convenience for customers, and reducing total environmental impact.  I look forward to this important discussion, which I hope will lead to an increase in the diversion of recyclable materials from the waste stream.

This is important, because our recycling rate is actually trending down, and has reached an embarrassingly low 17%.  Many other cities, including Saint Paul, are up in the 20s and 30s.  Hennepin County's goal for Minneapolis is for us to reach a 35% recycling rate.  In January, the Council will be considering a new solid waste and recycling Sustainability Indicator target to recover 67% of all recyclable materials from the residential waste stream by 2014 (this includes not only standard recyclables but organic waste and construction waste recovery as well).  We clearly have a lot of progress to make, and changing to a single or dual stream system could be part of the solution.


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