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What are Minnesotans really throwing away?

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recently released a waste composition report, which highlights trends of recycling in Minnesota.

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The study investigated what Minnesotans are throwing into the garbage and how much. The last waste composition study was completed in 2000.

Some key findings include:

● The amount of plastic thrown away has increased from 11 percent of the waste stream to 18 percent since 2000.

● Paper in the waste stream has decreased from 34 percent to 25 percent.

● Twelve thousand tons, or 24 million pounds, of aluminum beverage containers were discarded in Minnesota in 2012.

● More than 543,000 tons (1 billion pounds) of recyclable paper were discarded in Minnesota in 2012.

● 21,000 tons (41 million pounds) of PET beverage container plastic were discarded in 2012.

● Organics (food) accounts for 31 percent of the waste stream, which is a 21 percent increase from the 2000 study.

Data from the study will be used to target recyclable materials that are being thrown away in large quantities and promote increased efforts at recycling.

The 2013 waste composition study indicates there is less paper and less glass but more plastic and more food in the waste stream.

The study also shows that Minnesotans are discarding a large amount of material that is currently recyclable, material that can be used to create jobs in the local economy.

“This report is a wake-up call. Minnesotans take great pride in environmental stewardship, but these numbers suggest we’re not living up to our reputation,” said John Linc Stine, commissioner of the MPCA.

When material is taken out of the waste stream, jobs are created. Recycling benefits the economy by:

Creating jobs: approximately 37,000 jobs in Minnesota are directly and indirectly supported by the recycling industry. These jobs pay an estimated $1.96 billion in wages and add nearly $8.5 billion to Minnesota’s economy.

Generating profit: in 2010, Minnesota recycling programs collected about 2.5 million tons of material worth $690 million.

Saving money: it cost Minnesota more than $200 million to throw away 1 million tons of recyclable material in 2010. This waste could have been recycled for an additional estimated value of $217 million.

For more information or a copy of the report, go to