On July 11, the Minnesota Composting Council held the 2017 summer workshop in Stillwater, MN with a focus on organics collection programs in the state of Minnesota and some of its biggest communities. The workshop featured speakers who've taken part in the establishment and management of organics recycling programs, as well as composters who've faced the unique challenge of contamination in their efforts.
The first panel focused on residential organics collection programs and spoke about steps needed to open their drop-off, promotion of the drop-off, participation rates, contamination issues, and any surprising facts or lessons learned.
The four speakers from Duluth, Mankato, and Minneapolis took the stage to share their stats and success stories. Duluth currently has eight dropoff sites producing 3-4 tons per week while Mankato has 537 households participating in their organics recycling program which has led to 30.88 tons of organic waste collected from June 2016 to July 2017. The city of Minneapolis has seven dropoff sites complete with carts equipped with locks and code combinations disbursed to members, along with trained volunteers at the dropoff sites to ensure minimal contamination and proper disposal.
The second panel, which included representatives from St. Louis Park, Medina, Minnetonka, and Hutchinson, focused on residential organics collection programs, namely the establishment of their programs, why the collection method was selected, participation rates, challenges, lessons learned, and recommendations.
St. Louis Park's weekly collection opt-in program has seen success thanks to its direct mail pieces in increasing household participation, while Recycling Champions serve as contact points and resources in their communities as they promote and educate residents on organics recycling. The city of Medina has instituted a $20 credit to those who sign up to be part of the city's organics recycling program which has see nearly 19 percent of the city's households take part!
Minnetonka's sole organics hauler services 500 households, but of those 500 households 168 signed up in 2016! Lastly, the city of Hutchinson is working with 4,000 households as they produce 2,000 tons of organics waste per year which is then processed at a local facility.
The third panel representing St. Louis Park Zero, NatureWorks, and Highland Grill, focused on compostable products, namely the products they've worked with or encountered in their efforts. Of note was a presentation on Taco Time, a Pacific northwest restaurant chain which has fully adopted compostable serviceware and signage, leading to 70-75 percent diversion rates and a 47 percent sales growth simply due to increased brand recognition for their efforts!
The final panel consisted of four composters from Western Lake Superior Sanitary District, Specialized Environmental Technologies, Midwest Recycling Solutions, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and Creekside Soils from the City of Hutchinson.
The discussion centered on the various types of contamination the compost facility managers face at their facilities, as well as their methods in dealing with the contamination while at the same time educating their communities about what belongs in organics recycling versus traditional recycling and standard waste to be landfilled.
Following the panel's discussion, a tour of Self-Eco's facilities hosted by Self-Eco president Danny Mishek took place alongside an informative presentation on Target Field's organics recycling hosted by Jase Miller, Manager of Ballpark Operations.
Participants learned about the many ways both of these entities are working to curb waste while offering sustainable solutions in their respective industries. Target Field has shown an upward trajectory in its diversion rates as they've topped the 70 percent barrier and especially as they've moved from recyclable cups to compostable. This has enabled the Minnesota Twins to earn the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance!
From Self-Eco's compostable caterware and garden pots, to Target Field and the Twins' commitment to reducing waste through diversion and education, we're confident that Minnesota will continue to be a hotbed for organics recycling and zero waste efforts and innovation!
We'd like to thank all the staff and organizers at the Minnesota Composting Council who made this event such an extraordinary success. To learn more about MNCC's mission, bylaws, how to register as a member and so much more, please visit their website at http://www.mncompostingcouncil.org/.