E-DEMOCRACY | How can St. Paul increase recycling?


From: Steven Clift Date: Mar 05

You can add your two cent on the city’s Open St. Paul site (drop a copy here as well). It is sort of like an online public hearing.

– Steven Clift, E-Democracy.org

See: http://stpaul.gov/index.aspx?nid=5000#peak_democracy

How can the City of Saint Paul increase the level of recycling, both in materials and number of people recycling?


The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s new recycling goals call for reducing the amount of trash headed to landfills by 75% by 2030. However, in recent years, the level of recycling and participation in the citywide recycling program has declined or remained flat. The City of Saint Paul is committed to keeping recyclable and compostable materials out of our landfills by making our recycling services user friendly and cost-effective.

We want to hear your ideas on how to increase the level of recycling, both in materials and number of people recycling. In other words, what would make recycling more materials easier for you, and what, if anything prevents you from recycling?

Context of the project

The City of Saint Paul is committed to finding new ways to address barriers to participation and to capture the recyclable and compostable materials that still remain in the trash. To ensure a well-informed, financially and environmentally responsible decision, the City of Saint Paul is conducting an 8-10 month assessment process.

The City will gather input from the community and key stakeholders regarding recycling and waste management services (recycling, composting, bulky waste, litter and garbage issues). The information gathered through this process will help determine program initiatives and services for the next decade. We will utilize a variety of assessment tools including surveys (written, phone, and online), focus groups, social media; Open Saint Paul (this online comment tool), key stakeholder interviews, and community meetings.


For over 24 years, the City of Saint Paul and its partners have provided a high quality, innovative and cost-effective curbside recycling program for Saint Paul residents. The program has evolved over time and added services to multi-family residents, increased the list of acceptable items, opened a permanent recycling drop off center as well as provided exceptional educational materials. However, the recycling industry’s technology is changing rapidly, and the industry can now process a wider range of materials. Saint Paul’s Municipal recycling and waste management programs must adjust and take advantage of new technologies and innovation.

See rest of post here.

From: Darlene Levenson Date: Mar 06

Senior high rises in particular have a dearth of recyclable materials that are being thrown into the garbage instead of being recycled, and their renters aren’t necessarily too frail and/or old to recycle. One problem is that these renters don’t have enough room in their apartments or units to store everything that could be recycled, because they also have to contend with their garbage.

The biggest problem, however, is that they can’t just put their filled recycling bags in the hallway to have them hauled away once they’re filled. They have to haul their recyclable bags separately into elevators or carry them up or down stairs themselves. (Putting them in a bin would be too cumbersome or heavy.) Then, in addition, they also have to deal with their garbage. I know of several such renters where this whole rigmarole is far too inconvenient. Granted, some of them do a little recycling, but far from what they could.

Also, has any effort been made to impress each and every renter in these facilities with just how important it is that they recycle (as opposed to just asking the management to notify their renters in a mass manner)? Most of them figure it’s easier to just throw everything away, and they don’t have to bother, if they’re even aware of the recycling effort. And each unit should get updates on what can be recycled, such as the mailers we homeowners get. There are untold numbers of senior (and other) high rises in St. Paul, and realistically we have to reach out to them.

From: Diggitt Date: Mar 07

Perhaps the people to address are building management. Could they, for instance, have recycling bins in elevator lobbies or at the edge of common areas on each floor?

I am pretty ardent about recycling–I have a bag of garbage about every six weeks because I recycle or compost everything I can, including sending “other plastics” to Minneapolis friends. But then, I have been an environmental activist for more than fifty years and so were my parents. Talk to people ten years older than I am without that history and who are increasingly frail to boot, and they are just not going to try very hard. If you have never paid attention to the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers, you are not going to try to learn at age 75. It sounds pathetic–I mean, where have these folks been for the last 30 years?–but where they have been is ignoring recycling.

Building management tends to be pretty hard-headed and overall, will not willingly deploy staff time to the problem, or space. If there were some kind of carrot to encourage them, it might be possible to get entire buildings with hundreds of people opting into the program.

Diggitt McLaughlin
West Side

From: Neala Schleuning Date: Mar 07

Apologies, but I didn’t read all 60 suggestions. I have a simple one: give the bins away for free. We had three stolen in our neighborhood–such that people have taken to putting their addresses on them. They do cost a lot of you’re low income.

You could also hire college kids to go out in the summer to educate.

From: Steven Clift Date: 16:18

Here is a post about what Portland does that I posted in Minneapolis a few months ago:

I’ve enjoyed telling people in Portland that Minneapolis is now the number one biking city.

Now my brother has explained how their garbage/recycling/composting system works. I am guessing that we are not number one.

Recycling and compost/yard waste combo is picked up *weekly*, garbage is picked up every other week.

They moved to this about a year ago and since then garbage tossed is 40% less by weight.

Check out the pic of the newspaper ad or see: http://portlandcomposts.com

Is this the direction for Minneapolis? Should it be?

Picture of a Portland ad about the program’s success: http://forums.e-democracy.org/groups/mpls/messages/image/eeKTIEM03tcA5aVGNBt4oefNYnm-4xaN-2noC4Dx

Steven Clift – http://stevenclift.com
Executive Director – http://E-Democracy.org

From: Jim Mork Date: 17:02

Steve, I think there needs to be market information about recycled materials. Whatever the state wants, recycling only goes as far as the demand for the materials recycled. I don’t see how any useful discussion can proceed without a national, even international survey of the global demand for used materials.

Ultimately, reduce is better than recycle. People should take their own containers of every kind to the stores. And the stores need to revamp to sell products in bulk. I think Minnesota needs to change emphasis to this. In every store, packaged exceeds bulk about a hundred to one. THAT is why there is such a huge flow into both landfill and recycling. I don’t know what the economic and business challenges are to move more to unpackaged goods, but I do know without a solid informational base and a plan, reduce can never get off the ground.

Reuse is wonderful, too. My parents and my inlaws learned in the Depression a lot about reuse. But I don’t think most people who developed that expertise passed it on. The Depression was seen as “the bad time”, and buying and discarding probably seemed like the answer to many prayers. Only now do we realize the environmental impact of that lifestyle.

From: Diggitt Date: 17:03

About 20 years ago my hometown wanted to increase compliance for recycling. It cut garbage pickups in half, and the recycling rate went way up. The leap in thinking is not completely clear, but anything that makes it easier–and not having recycling sitting around the house for a longer time is easier–will help.

People will be angry about reducing garbage pickup to less than once a week, but it will work. Because I recycle and compost, I have only one garbage bag about every four or five weeks! Note: Plastics other than 1 and 2, I give to Minneapolis friends, who add it to their recycling. Adding all other plastics to our recycling would increase compliance, because people don’t want to take the trouble to turn things over and look for a 1 or 2, and/or they can’t remember 1 and 2.

Diggitt McLaughlin
West Side

From: Charlie Swope Date: 17:27

One way to increase recycling would be to require homeowners to dispose of the various types of waste in different types of bags that must be purchased from the city. So, e.g., garbage headed for a landfill could only be disposed of in relatively expensive bags while recyclable waste could be disposed of in cheaper bags. An economic incentive to cut down on waste headed for a landfill would inevitably result in an increase in recycling. Systems like this are in use in a number of cities here and abroad. They work. Charles Swope St. Paul

From: Steve Law Date: 17:34

Shoreview has big trash cans for residents… simple separation. What we are doing does not work in winter for me.

From: Diggitt Date: 18:03

It’s interesting being in StP from out of town. It seems to me that TC folks are quite aware of a certain amount of reuse (and the coops are great for teaching this). It certainly is something that people everywhere need education about doing–although, practically, it seems that many people just will not do it until they have to. Look at the demonstrations of human nature shown by recycling programs–i.e. the great majority of people won’t do it until they have no choice.

Diggitt McLaughlin
West Side

See thread here.

Also in the Daily Planet: COMMUNITY VOICES | Open Saint Paul: How can the City of Saint Paul increase the level of recycling, both in materials and number of people recycling? (2013)