Sunday, October 30, 2011

Zero-wasting the Monster Dash

I was contacted in September by Lindsay, a lead volunteer with Team Ortho, organizers of the Monster Dash 5K at Lake Harriet. She was looking for help with setting up recycling and composting to reduce the amount of waste at the race. Lindsay, Felicity and I traded lots of e-mails back and forth talking about logistics in the weeks leading up to the race Oct. 29, and then I was there on race day to help out.

The race had 3,000 participants -- and 250 dogs registered! It was a really nice day, and everyone looked so festive in their costumes.

An awesome waste-station volunteer.

Lindsay, left, is the champion behind the race's first recycling/composting effort. After working so hard at the YWCA triathlon, I was so grateful to just be a regular volunteer while Lindsay was in charge of all the zero-waste logistics!

I cringed when I saw all the food for the racers was in plastic bags, but we did capture a good portion of the bags for recycling.

And they're off!
Chip bags, which I'll send to TerraCycle for recycling.

Lindsay standing by two big bags of plastic bags collected for recycling.

Composting and recycling carts lined up to be picked up by the city of Minneapolis. Here're the stats:
bottles and cans: 21.2 lbs
plastic bags/film: 15.8 lbs
chip bags/candy wrappers: 2.9 lbs
cardboard/paper: 122 lbs
compostables: 134.5 lbs
trash: 33.1 lbs

for a diversion rate of 90 percent!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Atomic Recycling

As part of the fall Master Recycler/Composter class, the new MRCs toured Atomic Recycling, which handles construction and demolition waste. They are able to separate out and recycle an average of 72% of the materials in every dumpster. Atomic's MRF (materials recovery facility) is in north Minneapolis.

Hosing down the materials as they're dumped to lessen the dust.

There are two sorting lines. Materials such as wood, metals and cardboard are separated into hoppers next to the conveyer belt. Click here for a list of what Atomic can and can't recycle.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Changes coming for #1-7 plastics recycling

I didn't blog about this news when it came out last month because I figured you all would know about it already, but then I thought I better mention it just in case: Waste Management and Allied Waste are both going to start accepting a wider variety of plastics for recycling curbside starting this January. Both were waiting to make announcements, but the story got leaked to the Star Tribune. Read the story here. The reporter got some facts wrong: neither recycler will be taking garden hoses! Allied will take #1-7 and Waste will take #1-5.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Eureka now recycling pizza boxes

New from Eureka Recycling: You can now recycle the non-food-soiled portion of your cardboard pizza boxes (in those cities that Eureka services). Click here for details.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Collecting organics at the RAM conference

I attended the Recycling Association of Minnesota (RAM) conference last week at the Minneapolis Convention Center, and was happy to see them offering the ability to recycle our organics.

One of their recycling stations.

Anne Ludvik of SET (on the right) collecting the organics to bring to her processing facility.

The utensils were compostable, and the Convention Center used reusable coffee mugs, water glasses and dessert plates.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A new crop of MRCs

The fall Master Recycler/Composter training classes are well underway, and Carolyn's gotten some good feedback -- people are finding the sessions interesting and informative. She asked me to help out by putting together a recycling sorting activity two weeks ago, and I threw in some tricks. Want to test your knowledge? Scroll to the bottom.

A full house

Consulting their MRC manuals ...

I think the range of ages is awesome.

MRC recycling activity

Which of these items can’t be recycled/composted at home? And if they can’t be recycled at home, can they be recycled elsewhere? Where?

1. plastic bottle caps

2. metal bottle caps

3. aluminum foil

4. pizza boxes

5. #1-7 plastics

6. foam foodware/blocks

7. boxboard vs. freezer/fridge boxes

8. film plastic (bread bags, chip bags, Ziplocs, paper towel wrappers, ice bags)

9. electronic media (DVDs, computer disks, cassette tapes)

10. natural cork

11. aseptic/gable-top containers (juice boxes, tofu boxes/milk cartons, juice cartons)

12. paper (windows in envelopes, spiral notebooks, toilet paper rolls)

13. chip bags, cookie packaging, granola bar wrappers, candy wrappers

14. rags/linens


1. Plastic bottle caps (made out of polypropylene, PP, or #5 plastic) will be recycled as long as they’re left ON the bottles – this is a fairly recent development. If they’re loose in your recycling bin, once they arrive at the materials recovery facility (MRF) their small size means they fall through the screening machines. After the bottles (made out of polyethylene, PETE, or #1 plastic) are sent to a processor, they’re shredded. The now-separated bottle caps are collected separately, and those are then recycled, too.

2. Metal bottle caps will be recycled if they’re put into a metal can and the top is squeezed shut. Otherwise if they’re loose in your recycling bin, once they arrive at the materials recovery facility (MRF) their small size means they fall through the screening machines.

3. Aluminum foil must be free of food. Aluminum foil that is recycled with aluminum cans tends to turn to ash because of its thinness and smaller volume compared with cans. Foil has a better chance of being recycled if the foil is in larger pieces. Aluminum pans that are fairly clean can be recycled with cans.

4. Pizza boxes are recyclable in cities that use Eureka Recycling. This is a new program for Eureka. Pizza boxes are traditionally not recyclable because the oils soak into the paper, but pizza boxes have always been compostable. Galactic Pizza in Minneapolis uses their pizza boxes as a coupon – bring them back to the restaurant for $1 off and Galactic composts the pizza box.

5. Plastics #1-7 are recyclable at Eastside Food Co-op. Their parking lot is the drop-off site on Thursdays and Saturdays. They also accept plastic bags (aka plastic film). These #1-7 plastic tubs and containers differ from #1 and #2 bottles that are accepted curbside because of the way the plastics are molded. Bottles use a blow-molded process while tubs and other containers use an injection-molded process. There are strong markets for #1 and #2 blow-molded bottles. See below for more info:

For containers with a neck -- that is to say bottles -- they are produced through a blow-mold process, where the melted resin is blown like a balloon in to a mold. To make a stretchy balloon resin you need really long chains of plastic. On the other hand, tubs are produced by injecting the melted resin into a mold, so the chains need to be short so as to squish into all parts of the mold. So the yogurt tub is made of short HDPE, and the detergent bottle is made of long HDPE.
· Injection molding makes solid parts, like a Frisbee®, while blow molding makes hollow parts, like a soap dispenser.
· Blow molding, by its nature, makes parts whose wall thickness will vary from place to place, based on how much the material has to stretch as it is being blown. An injection-molded part's thickness is determined by the mold and core relationship.
Allied and Waste Management will begin collecting #1-7 plastics curbside in January 2012.

6. Foam (expanded polystyrene) foodware isn’t recyclable in Hennepin County despite the #6 symbol on the bottom. Packing peanuts can be taken to a UPS store for reuse. Foam blocks are not recyclable in Hennepin County, but are recyclable at the Coon Rapids Recycling Center (Anoka County).

7. Fridge/freezer boxes are not recyclable with paper products. The paper used for boxes intended for refrigerated and frozen foods contains a wet-strength chemical to help the fibers resist tearing if they get wet. Fridge/freezer boxes ARE compostable.

8. Many types of film plastic (usually LDPE #4 or HDPE #2) are recyclable through the It’s In The Bag program, which has drop-off boxes at many grocery stores and Target stores. Plastic must be clean and dry with no food residue.

9. Electronic media are accepted for recycling at Hennepin County Recycling Drop-off facilities and at Best Buy, although some materials are accepted at county facilities and not at Best Buy and vice versa.

10. Cork (natural, not synthetic) is recyclable at Whole Foods through the Cork ReHarvest program, which turns cork into flooring.

11. Aseptic/gable top containers (juice boxes, tofu boxes, milk cartons, juice cartons) are recyclable in cities that use Eureka Recycling. These containers contain valuable virgin paper fiber but must be processed separately from other paper to separate the plastic coating from the paper fiber.

12. paper: windows in envelopes, spiral notebooks, staples, toilet paper rolls: all recyclable at home.

13. Chip bags, cookie packaging, granola bar wrappers, candy wrappers are recyclable through TerraCycle. You must sign up on their website (, they pay for shipping and give money to the non-profit of your choice in return for you sending packaging to them for recycling.

14. rags/linens: UsAgain will accept clean clothing that is no longer wearable to be recycled.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bread & Pickle composting update

Unfortunately those signs that Felicity and I made seem to be having little impact on the composting situation at Bread & Pickle, which closed for the season last weekend.

Here's a composting bin.
Here is a trash bin. Everything I can see at the top of the bin is compostable.

Plus 3 of the 5 signs have disappeared. Oh well ...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

2011 Recycler of the Year Award

I dedicate this to my friends, supporters and fellow recycling enthusiasts, especially those of you who've helped me at events, helped me deliver or pick up recyclables, encouraged me when I've been frustrated and discouraged and cheered me on in my quest to turn my passion into a career. I couldn't have done it without you all! And most of all, thanks to my awesome and VERY tolerant husband, Mr. Trashbasher!

I received this award this past week at a Recycling Association of Minnesota awards dinner. My friends Madalyn, Felicity and John nominated me, and they tricked me into thinking I was one of several finalists ("come to the dinner to see if you won!") when in fact I was THE finalist. So it was a nice surprise. And in reading their nomination, they were so effusive that I think I would've picked me, too! So thanks for writing such an awesome nomination and being such great pals, you three!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Finally recycled my Styrofoam cups!

I've had 12 large bags of foam cups, plates, trays and clamshell take-out containers sitting in our garage for about three years, most of them from my co-workers. I was determined to get these recycled before this winter. So I called DiversiFoam in Rockford, Minn., where I'd taken foam serviceware (as plates, cups, etc. are called) once before to be recycled. Nope, we don't want them, they said. So I called the nearest Dart Container recycling facility (in Illinois, unfortunately) to see if I could ship my foam there. This super-nice woman called and said sure, we'll take it, but I checked around your area and found a place that will accept your foam, I talked to the guy and here's his name and number. Skeptical (usually people don't want post-consumer foam for recycling because of food debris), I called, and sure enough, operations manager Jon Vikse said he could take my foam ("It's clean, right?" "Yup, sure is. You can look at it, and if you don't think it's clean enough, I'll take it away." "OK.") . So I called the Dart Container woman back and thanked her profusely.

Friday came around, and I loaded up my trusty car and headed north to Anoka. Here's the place.

When I got there and looked around with Jon, I realized Earth First recycles a LOT of foam in addition to electronics and computers. This is 1.5 semi-trailer trucks of polyurethane foam!

This is more than 10 gaylord boxes worth of extruded polystyrene foam. Their baler really packs it in!

John had a whole gaylord box filled with plastic cards.

Instapak foam, which I had no idea could be recycled.

Computer mice.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Move-in/move-out recycling

We all know that whenever you move, you generate a lot of waste. Our department is moving to a new building soon, so everyone's cleaning out 19 years' worth of paper from their desks. At my old job, when people moved around and cleaned out their desks, huge 1/2-cubic-yard trash carts would be parked around the room. There were recycling bins, but not near the trash carts and not anywhere as big as the trash carts.

At Environmental Services, it's the opposite: the recycling carts dominate. These are 96-gallon carts; we're filling about 12 of them every couple of days.

Recycling our "technotrash" (VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs, cassette tapes, cords)

We also are donating a ton of materials and supplies for reuse: binders, shelving units, maps, Plexiglass boxes (which I found a home for via the Minnesota Materials Exchange), and office supplies to Companies to Classrooms, ArtStart, ARC's Value Village and Goodwill.

Angie's car loaded up with supplies for ArtStart.

Here's the trash at the end of one day.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Checking in with the one-sort recycling pilot in ECCO

I wrote about the one-sort recycling pilot programs in the Willard-Hay and East Calhoun (ECCO) neighborhoods in this post. Here're photos from the first ridealong I did a couple weeks ago.

The program is getting great set-out rates.

A 96-gallon cart and still this resident had excess recycling that he/she placed next to the cart.

Blue lids indicate recycling containers, green containers are for organics, black-lidded carts are trash.

Uh, that broom handle isn't recyclable.

This is Bryan -- he is lightning-fast!

This computer records every time a cart gets tipped into the truck.

full to the brim!