Food scraps make up about 20% of trash collected in Ramsey and Washington (Minnesota) counties by weight. Starting in late 2022, the counties will roll out residential curbside collection to single-family homes, apartments and condos using “food scrap bags” that will be co-collected with trash and then sorted from the trash after collection. “The Durable Compost Bags system requires no additional carts or trucks,” notes Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy, the authority that manages solid waste for the counties. The authority’s Recycling & Energy Center in Newport (MN) handles all household garbage from Washington and Ramsey counties — 450,000 tons per year. About 350,000 tons are burned in incinerators to generate electricity, and 15,000 tons are recycled. Ground was broken in the spring for an expansion at the Newport facility to accommodate sorting of the Durable Compost Bags. The plan is to employ robotics sorting to remove the bags mixed in with the trash. Processors for the collected organics have not been identified.
The voluntary program will be available to more than 300,000 households in Ramsey and Washington counties — including St. Paul. Recycling & Energy will provide the compostable bags and collection service at no cost to residents in the two counties. (All solid waste programs in the two counties are funded by a “County Environmental Charge,” a service fee included in ratepayers’ waste collection bills.) Bag distribution will occur through an online ordering system with call-in option available for those without Internet access. Recycling & Energy currently has drop-off sites for households to divert their food scraps. Those sites will continue to be available when the curbside program launches.