More organics drop-off sites opening

Updated: September 26, 2014 - 4:23 pm

By October, the city plans to have six drop-off sites for compostable waste

The city opened a third organics recycling drop-off site at Van Cleve Park Sept. 21 and plans to open three more by the end of October.

The drop-off site at Audubon Park in Northeast was scheduled to begin accepting household organics Oct. 7. Drop-off sites at Armatage and Whittier parks in Southwest Minneapolis will open later in October, said Minneapolis Recycling Coordinator Kellie Kish.

Just eight of Minneapolis’ more than 80 neighborhoods have curbside organic waste recycling through a city pilot program. It’s expected that the curbside program will go citywide in 2015, but the drop-off sites give eager household recyclers an option for their organic waste until then.

The first organics drop-off site opened April 26 in Pearl Park. A second opened in early August at the city’s South Transfer Station near where Lake Street runs beneath Hiawatha Avenue.

A survey of Pearl Park drop-off site users showed they were driving or bicycling to that location from 29 different Minneapolis neighborhoods, an indication that there was strong demand for the service in other parts of the city, Kish said.

She said the city doesn’t have solid numbers on just how many people are using the drop-off sites, but noted an email list for the Pearl Park location had 575 individual addresses. When it first opened, it was getting between 40 and 60 visits during any given three-hour period, she added.

Most of those Pearl Park drop-off site users were coming from single-family households, according to a survey of visitors conducted earlier this year. But there were a significant number of apartment dwellers, as well, Kish said, and that has implications for the city’s plans to expand curbside organics pickup beyond the pilot program.

Citywide curbside collection of organic waste would eliminate the need for drop-off sites, except that the city and its contractor for residential recycling services don’t serve large multi-family residential buildings. In some areas with lots of apartment buildings, there may still be demand for a drop-off program even after the expansion of curbside pickup, Kish said.

The city is under pressure from Hennepin County to get that curbside program up and running soon.

In February, the county dropped a longstanding request to burn more trash at its downtown incinerator, the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center. In exchange, it demanded Minneapolis add organics collection to its solid waste and recycling services by the start of 2015.

If the city doesn’t follow through, Hennepin County could withhold the $864,000 per year in state funds for recycling it passes on to Minneapolis.

A city study released in March indicated the program would cost at least $3.5 million per year, adding $17.60 to residents’ monthly solid waste and recycling fees. At the time, Solid Waste and Recycling Director David Herberholz said curbside organic recycling would likely debut as an opt-in program, possibly in the spring or summer.

Participation in the pilot program ranges from about 30 to 50 percent of households in the neighborhoods where it’s offered, according to the city. Kish said participating households recycle roughly 7 to 13 pounds of organics per week.

Whether Minneapolis residents recycle curbside or at a drop-off site, they can send more than just food scraps to the compost heap. Food-soiled paper products, including egg cartons and pizza boxes, are also recyclable. Cotton swabs, dryer lint and Q-tips are among the other items accepted.

It’s recommended residents collect organic waste in a separate container from regular trash using certified compostable bags.

Hours vary at the city’s drop-off locations, which will remain open all winter long. For more information, including a list of acceptable materials, go to minneapolismn.gov/solid-waste/organics.