Saturday, December 3, 2011

Multi-sort recycling in Minneapolis

Those of us who live in Minneapolis have probably seen the compartmentalized recycling truck on our street, but what does picking up all that separated material involve? To do some research for a comparison of two-sort and single-sort recycling, I did a ridealong, and I have one word for you: strenuous.

I went with Pat, who also does the collecting for the two-sort recycling pilot program in the Seward neighborhood.

Don't set your recyclables out in plastic bags -- they get all tangled up in the machines at the recycling facility.

Why is multi-sort collection strenuous? Glass. Heavy glass.

Brown, green and clear glass bottles get separated by hand by the recycling collector.

The other strenuous part: paper. Also heavy. See how Pat is throwing the paper way over his head? He does that more than 100 times a day. And the panels on the sides of the truck raise as the paper compartment gets fuller and fuller, so the opening for throwing paper in becomes smaller and smaller.

Pat stomping on the paper to compress it in the compartment.

Lots of bending and lifting.

The plastics compartment is the last one in the trailer.

Two steering wheels!


  1. No idea it was that much work. Should we use paper bags only for the recycling, then? And why don't they ask us to sort the glass? I'll do it for our local guy, but we usually only have a few bottles.

  2. Hi, Matt, yeah, it's eye-opening to see how much work it is! I'd say only use paper bags for your mixed paper. Use small wastebaskets/bins/buckets for your metal, plastic and glass, and call the city to get recycling stickers to put on them. Check out my post:
    That way your guy empties your containers and then leaves them for you to use over and over. Saves on paper-bag usage. The city used to ask residents to sort the glass by color, but stopped some years back. I don't know why; maybe people complained?