Educating the public and elected officials on solid waste management

Rick Person
Public Works Program Administrator
Solid Waste and Recycling
City of Saint Paul, Minnesota
Member, APWA Solid Waste Management Committee

The National Recycling Coalition's new guide, How to Advocate for Recycling with State and Local Decision Makers, notes that recycling managers need to show elected officials how innovative program design and efficient technologies mean recycling is more cost-effective than ever; that by adding value to locally generated materials, recycling is an engine for economic growth; and that recycling conserves energy, saves resources, and reduces dependence on high-cost, high-polluting forms of energy.

The City of Saint Paul, Minnesota is taking a number of steps to inform citizens about waste reduction, recycling, and other environmental management issues in Saint Paul, and to solicit citizens' advice.

The City's recycling contractor, Eureka Recycling (, conducts an extensive annual campaign of waste reduction and recycling education programs for Saint Paul residents, including recycling hotlines, and the Twin Cities Free Market residential waste exchange service (

In the fall of 2005 Mayor Randy Kelly released "Through our Eyes: A Community Vision for Saint Paul," the result of 57 public meetings called "Streetbeat." The report included recommendations on waste reduction and recycling ("zero-waste city in 10 years"), transportation, the environment, and other city initiatives.

The Saint Paul Environmental Roundtable, a forum for concerned citizens, began a series of community meetings in 2005 to address issues about Saint Paul's environment, especially where local action can make a positive impact. Community members from the Roundtable are discussing and making recommendations on six topics:

  • Working for a Waste-Free Saint Paul
  • Healthy Local Food Systems
  • Smarter, Cleaner Energy
  • Greening the Built Environment
  • Improving the Quality & Quantity of Green Space
  • Clean Water Stewardship

The Environmental Roundtable has published draft recommendations on Working for a Waste-Free Saint Paul.

Event Recycling

  • Require waste reduction plans for the city's largest events and attach to permit requirements. Eureka Recycling currently provides recycling service at the annual Living Green Expo ( in Saint Paul and for the Saint Paul Bike Classic, and plans to work with more large summer festivals such as the Minnesota State Fair and the Taste of Minnesota, both in Saint Paul.

Public Space Recycling

  • Require recycling in any public space where trash is collected.
  • Implement recycling in public spaces. Eureka already provides recycling services at over 100 city and county buildings, and will expand to serve the Como Park Conservatory and Zoo in 2006.

School, College & University Recycling & Reuse

  • Evaluate whether schools are in line with state- and city-established diversion rates.
  • Develop a partnership with a waste-reduction organization which can provide technical assistance to Saint Paul Schools.
  • Establish a system by which schools can purchase carts and/or bins for internal collection systems.
  • Evaluate Saint Paul's 11 post-secondary education institutions, building on existing recycling and related green projects on Saint Paul college and university campuses.

Sustainable Purchasing

  • Develop sustainability criteria for city purchasing, building on existing ordinances and policies.
  • Limit procurement of products that are harmful to the environment.
  • Create a city green team (Sustainable Saint Paul Green Team) to determine criteria, and conduct an annual environmental expo for city and county employees.

Unit-Based Pricing for Trash

  • Update unit-based pricing section of the city solid waste ordinance governing trash service to set fees more proportional to the volume of trash.

Organics Recycling

  • Expand backyard composting and vermiculture workshops so that more organic material is managed at the source at homes and businesses. Over 5,000 backyard compost bins have been distributed to Saint Paul residents the past five years.
  • In 2004 Eureka Recycling changed the system in Saint Paul to weekly two-stream collection of recyclables (all fibers in one bin and all rigid containers in another bin, plus textiles), using its fleet of 18 new B20 biodiesel vehicles and new processing facility, resulting in an increase of 3,000 tons or 15 percent, to 23,000 tons collected in 2005. Eureka plans to add clean organics and hardcover books to the curbside program in 2006-2007, with the objective of reaching a 75% residential recycling rate in Saint Paul by 2008.
  • Study the impact of garbage disposals and educate residents.
  • Examine the current subscription yard waste collection and Ramsey County's public dropoff system for its effectiveness, efficiency, and legitimacy.
  • Conduct a study and audit of the access to and barriers for commercial and industrial generators of organic wastes.

Designing Buildings to Accommodate Recycling

  • Specify minimum requirements for recycling space through building licensing process.
  • Provide incentives for design elements that encourage recycling.

Commercial Recycling

  • Require commercial recycling in order to get a business license, and require commercial refuse haulers to provide recycling service to their accounts.

Construction and Demolition Recycling

  • Require recycling and waste reduction plans with applications for building permits, and develop an enforcement mechanism.

Invest in Jobs through Reuse and Recycling

  • Identify geographic areas within Saint Paul to target for green economic development.
  • Provide incentives for "green collar job" creation, which are jobs that add value to the community without destroying resources.

An interdepartmental working group called the Sustainable Saint Paul Green Team was created by the City Council in 2005, as a group of city staff with experience in environmental sustainability. Objectives of the group include internal assessment of current city environmental practices, web page development, and implementation of a citywide sustainability work plan, incorporating Street Beat and Environmental Roundtable recommendations.

New Mayor Chris Coleman and the City Council are eager to continue receiving community direction on next steps to make Saint Paul a greener, healthier, and more enjoyable place to live, work, and play.

Rick Person can be reached at (651) 266-6122 or