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Ramsey and Washington counties in Minnesota are launching an innovative food scrap recycling program – InForum

Vaseline 2 months ago

A new program for select communities in Ramsey and Washington counties will allow residents to recycle food scraps and have them picked up at their trash collection.

The idea is simple. Use the same garbage trucks, waste bins and systems that are already in place, but provide a special compostable bag for food waste. One that is strong enough not to break while traveling in the back of the truck.

Starting April 1, residents of Landfall, Oakdale, St. Paul Park, Woodbury and Gray Cloud Island Township can sign up for the program. That’s in addition to residents of Cottage Grove, Maplewood, Newport and North St. Paul who have been part of the program since October 2023.

Participating households can separate their food waste from waste in a separate bag – provided free of charge through the program – and place it in the same bin as their waste.

“We have found this to be an efficient and cost-effective method of collecting residents’ food scraps in their homes,” said Annalee Garletz, who oversees the Food Scraps Pickup Program for Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy. “If you throw your special food waste bag in your garbage can or waste container, the garbage truck will just come. It is not a separate truck that comes to collect the compost.”

This helps reduce the number of trucks on the road and does not require drastic changes to the waste transport system.

Key to the program are the special compost bags, Garletz said.

They are durable enough to be thrown away in the garbage truck, but can still decompose along with food waste. During processing, an AI device helps separate the food waste bags from the rest of the waste. The waste then goes to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Organics Recycling Facility.

A 2021 report from the EPA estimates that food loss and waste in the U.S. produces about the same greenhouse gas emissions as 42 coal-fired power plants. That doesn’t include methane emissions caused by food waste rotting in landfills.

EPA data shows that food waste is the most common material in landfills and incinerators. Food waste accounts for 24 percent of landfills and 22 percent of incinerated solid waste.

Participants are given an annual allocation of 60 bags, along with instructions to help improve food waste collection and proper disposal.

Officials hope to enroll 10 percent of residents in the program area within the first year and aim for 40 percent participation after five years.

Garletz expects they will be able to achieve that goal. Since the pilot program launched in October, nearly 10 percent of residents in the Cottage Grove, Maplewood, Newport and North St. Paul communities have signed up.

While there is no specific timeline, Garletz said the goal is to expand the program to residents of the two counties.

Residents can check their eligibility and sign up for the program by visiting the Food Scraps Pickup Program website or calling 651-661-9393.

If you are not in an eligible community, there are food scrap drop-off locations in Ramsey and Washington counties.