The State of Recycling in Minnesota

Released by: Environment Minnesota Research & Policy Center

Recycling rates in major cities throughout Minnesota reveal one of the better states in the nation in terms of waste management. Yet, there is still plenty of room for improvement. According to the most recent study, Minnesota’s statewide recycling rate of 43.6 percent eclipses the 2015 national average of 34.7 percent. Part of Minnesota’s success can be attributed to the creation of specific goals and strategies. By 2030, Minnesota plans to achieve a 75 percent recycling rate for counties in the Twin Cities Metro area and a 35 percent rate in Greater Minnesota by 2030. Here’s how the ten most populous counties stack up:

To reach its goals, Minnesota will have to contend with the effects of recent international trade disputes. For decades, the United States sent millions of tons of scrap material to China to be recycled. This past year, China effectively stopped accepting our refuse, claiming it was too contaminated and unsellable for recycling. The United States was unprepared for this change in policy. Without China as an export option, recyclables have been piling up in facilities throughout Minnesota and many other states. This disruption has increased service costs, decreased revenue, and in some cases led recycling collectors to limit their services.

“Recycling and composting are critical to addressing climate change and growing jobs in our communities,” said Representative Frank Hornstein of Minneapolis. “We can and must do a better job to reduce waste and improve our recycling rate in Minnesota.“

As the saying goes, change brings opportunity. Recycling in Minnesota already brings economic benefits in the form of $690 million in revenue from collection, and 37,000 jobs supported by the industry (which adds nearly $8.5 billion to the state economy). Furthermore, hundreds of Minnesota companies purchase and manufacture products using recycled materials. In the wake of China’s policy changes, Minnesota has an opportunity to further develop its recycling economy through expanded collection, sorting, and end-market solutions previously provided by China.