- Minnesota's Hennepin County—which includes Minneapolis and the Mall of America—began a weeklong waste characterization study to better understand what its residents aren't recycling.
- The county currently diverts 46% of its 1.35 million tons of waste per year. The remaining waste is disposed of in a roughly even split between incineration at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center and landfilling.
- In 2014, the state set a goal for metro counties to divert 75% percent of waste for recycling by 2030. Results of the waste characterization study will be published in July.
Recent analysis of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency data by the Star Tribune found that state residents are sending fewer recyclable materials to landfills or waste-to-energy facilities than they were 20 years ago. Though some categories, such as plastic film, are now being disposed of in greater quantities. In 1996, 48 pounds of film was disposed of per person compared to 70 pounds now. Other categories, such as newsprint, have decreased.
These changes in consumption habits are part of what Hennepin is trying to identify on a local level. Unlike previous studies, the county is also doing a secondary sort into "retail categories" to better demonstrate the types of items residents are throwing away. Large quantities of clothing, shoes, books and reusable bags have already been identified which could have been donated. Workers have also found many contaminated items in the recycling stream due to improper cleaning.
A similar study conducted by Ramsey and Washington counties in 2014 found that food waste is the biggest area for potential diversion. Hennepin officials expect to find the same and have said raising the county's current 3% organics diversion rate will likely be key to meeting the state's ambitious 2030 recycling goals.