Taste The Waste

Calling all foodies and hunger fighters: Taste The Waste!

Interested in ways to learn more about solutions to the food waste? Need a break from cooking this week? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then mark your calendar for Taste The Waste, an interactive food waste awareness event this Thursday night, February 7th at the Red Stag Supperclub. The dinner will feature a series of small plate dishes created from recovered food, thanks to Twin Cities Coop Partners. Each ticket will also include a beer from Finnegans, a brewery dedicated to “turning beer into food” through local partnerships with farmers and hunger relief organizations.

Click to visit the Eventbrite registration page

Click to visit the Eventbrite registration page

The issue of wasted food has exploded to epidemic proportions, especially here in the United States. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council’s “Save The Food” initiative, 40% of food in the United States goes to waste, getting tossed instead of being consumed. Aggregated from not only restaurants and grocery stores, but from individual households, we all have a part in this wasted food. Not only does food waste result in tremendous environmental and social consequences, but there are also financial repercussions. Save The Food has calculated that a 4-person family can lose at least $1500 a year on food that gets tossed in the home!

The environmental impacts of wasted food are extensive; from the farming production resources expended, to processing and packaging, transportation, consumption, and finally to waste management; all food has a story. When food is thrown away, it is not only a waste of that physical item, but also of water, soil, fossil fuels, and human labor. For instance, Save The Food estimates that 1 pound of beef utilizes approximately the same amount of water as it takes to shower for 370 minutes. If that beef is never eaten, that is a lot of wasted resources.  

While 40% of food is going straight into the landfill, 40 million Americans are fighting hunger (Feeding America). Food insecurity issues surround us here in Minnesota, where 1 in 11 households are affected. Many local organizations, including food banks and shelves, farmers, restaurant partners, and more are working to solve this disconnect and improve these intertwined issues.

Consider attending Taste The Waste or getting involved in some other way!

Register Here: Taste The Waste


Save The Food

Feeding America


It’s an exciting time at Little Six Casino - the smaller casino next to Mystic Lake Hotel & Casino. We’ve launched a pilot to test a new compostable cup (say goodbye to the styrofoam!) as well as new collection containers on the casino floor, which adds traditional recycling, as well as organics recycling in the front-of-house. The new bins are labeled with Recycle Across America standardized signage, to make sure we’re doing everything possible to clean up the stream. Should all go well at Little Six, the hope is to convert all of Mystic’s front of house operations in 2019. We anticipate big diversion rates with this project! More to come.

New waste collection bins at Little Six Casino, featuring Recycle Across America standardized signs.

New waste collection bins at Little Six Casino, featuring Recycle Across America standardized signs.

China's National Sword Policy

Changes in the Recycling Industry

Big things could be around the corner as China has instituted their National Sword Policy - reducing the level of accepted contamination in recycling coming from overseas. In our home base of Minnesota, that is less of an issue as we have a fair amount of local and regional markets who take our recyclables and make them into new products. 

California is a different story. Resource Recycling recently had an article that stated "About 85 percent of mixed paper and OCC (old corrugated cardboard) exported out of California has been bound for China in recent years" and that "62 percent of the (15 million tons) of exported material went to China in 2016". What that means is that millions of tons of recyclable materials could be heading to the landfill. Read the full article here.

Do your part. Know what recyclables are accepted by your hauler. Implement standardized signage from Recycle Across America at your schools, churches, offices, sports fields, etc. so that we can give everyone the chance to #RecycleRight. And let your elected officials know that environmental causes and green jobs are important to you and to our communities!  

Example of Recycle Across America's standardized signage in use. These signs are used at U.S. Bank Stadium, MSP Airport, the MN State Fair, throughout the National Park System and countless other locations across the country. If you fly from Orlando to JFK in New York, you'll see the same signs on the bins, which will help you #RecycleRight   

Example of Recycle Across America's standardized signage in use. These signs are used at U.S. Bank Stadium, MSP Airport, the MN State Fair, throughout the National Park System and countless other locations across the country. If you fly from Orlando to JFK in New York, you'll see the same signs on the bins, which will help you #RecycleRight


Source: https://resource-recycling.com/recycling/2...

Recycling Bin Rental Program

Need Event Recycling? Check out the Minnesota Recycling Bin Program!

There is a program available to help maximize your recycling collection at events throughout the State through the rental of additional recycling containers for your venue or event. This service is supported by the Minnesota Beverage Association and their bottling members, to help increase recycling rates throughout Minnesota. Bins are available from as few as 20, up to 250, and boast the Recycle Across America standardized signage. Partner up to help enhance your program’s recycling goals!

Get a customized quote here.



Wish-Cycling is the desire to recycle everything possible, even if it's not actually recyclable. The Minneapolis Star Tribune just had an article on these lofty recycling behaviors. See more HERE.

One of the challenges of this industry is that often MRF's (Materials Recovery Facility) accept different materials. And that even though some things are recyclable - say plastic bags - it doesn't mean it can go to the same facility. 

Plastic bags are a great example. They are 100% percent recyclable. However... they totally mess up sorting machines. Eureka Recycling in Minneapolis has stated that they spend hours, HOURS, everyday, with the MRF machines down, picking bags out of the system.  

So. Thank you. Thank you for wanting to do the right thing. For hoping that all of your materials end up as new items to be used again and again. But the best line of defense...

When in doubt, throw it out! 


The problem with the chasing arrow...

Listen to NPR/Pulse Radio and our friends at Recycle Across America weigh in on the struggles of our current recycling system in the US.

Did you know the recycling symbol was designed by a 23 architecture student as part of a design competition? And was only meant to represent paper and cardboard recycling only.

Contaminated streams are expensive to manage, have a high loss of valuable material because it's dirty, and cause equipment failures. 

We engaged Recycle Across America in our work with the Minnesota State Fair because we believe in their process. Consistency. And signs that make sense. 




Increasing Recycling at the Great Minnesota Get Together!

Now in our third year working with the Minnesota State Fair, my business partner Mark (with Connect Ecology) and I did what we do best - pulled together diverse partners to create a project with tangible environmental results, and cost savings for our clients. 

The partnership connected the MN State Fair Foundation with resources from the MN Beverage Association and American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America to increase the amount of recycling containers available for attendees by nearly 85%. From 435 containers in 2015, to 795 containers this year - 260 of them with updated signage. More access to containers, with clear messaging means more materials collected. And with a record setting attendance for the 2016 Fair, we hope for impressive results. 

The partnership also saw the value in partnering with in Recycle Across America for the clear, consistent, nationally recognized standardized signage, teaching people to recycle right. If we see the same messages at each bin, in every city, it creates a consistent comfort in knowing how to properly sort. Creating a clean stream for processing (ensuring all items are recycled and not rejected) creates valuable material to be returned to the bottlers, who are vey interested in using post-consumer plastics whenever possible. 

The project garnered 11 media stories - drawing more attention to the importance of recycling. Click here to read one of them!

Every step counts. There are always ways to improve. Increased access and visibility to recycling led the way this year. Keep an eye out for bigger things to come! 

International Compost Awareness Week

May 1-7 is the US Composting Council's International Compost Awareness Week. 

This years theme focuses on the benefit of water conservation of compost. The International Compost Awareness Committee chose this year's theme to bring attention to the role of compost in healthy soil to address growing drought and food insecurity issues across the world.  

Follow the US Composting Council on Twitter - @USCompostingCou - for more information! 

Earth Day!

For me, Earth Day is every day. I spent the celebrated Earth Day (April 22) teaching elementary students at Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial School about compost, with Full Circle Organics.

Lake Crystal began collecting organics for recycling at the beginning of the school year. Earth Day was an opportunity to connect with each student and explain the industrial composting process to them. We brought examples of the nitrogen (greens) and carbon (browns) and the finished compost, showing them what's happening to their school lunches.

Organics recycling is starting to be more widely available throughout the state of Minnesota. Full Circle is one of the largest processors, with sites in Becker, Good Thunder and Shakopee. They also offer depackaging and preprocessing - allowing organics diversion from a part of the waste stream that previously wasn't able to be addressed.

If you don't currently have organics recycling, ask you hauler and call your city representatives. The more you ask, the faster it will happen!

America Recycles Day - Nov. 15, 2015

November 15th is America Recycles Day. It is a day to celebrate our nation’s progress in recycling, but also reflect on its problems. The New York Times op-ed written last month by John Tierney sparked outrage nationwide and received a whopping 487 comments on the web. Although there are MANY holes in his arguments and he seems to express an opinion against recycling, John acknowledges there is a lack of incentives for recycling in America.

An Economist article published in April discusses the state of recycling in America. Companies want to use recycled material, but it is costly compared to virgin material AND there is a low supply. The country’s recycling rate has been stagnant at 34% for 2 decades. Americans THROW AWAY $11.4 billion of recyclables per year, even though recycling an aluminum can emits 95% less greenhouse gas emissions.

Let's face it, America, we have a recycling problem.

Recycling has great economic, environmental, and community benefits, SO let's do something about it! When you throw something in the recycling bin, you are consciously making an effort to reduce your carbon footprint. This great ad campaign by Keep America Beautiful captures what could happen if we simply closed the loop-

It’s not complicated. You don’t have to rally your politicians or stop using your car. We just have to put materials in the right bin AND tell your friends and family to join. For America Recycles Day, take the pledge here.

And on November 15th, find a way to increase your personal recycling rate by reusing waste in some way, bringing food residue to a compost drop-off site, or making signs on your garbage bin that read- "Can I be recycled?"

And that, America, is how we RECYCLE.

Your Cereal Box

When you buy a $3 box of cereal, you are purchasing more than just 6 to 7 bowls of sugary goodness. You are purchasing the packaging, which includes the box AND the plastic bag inside the box. The other month there was a sale on Malt O’ Meal brand cereal and I decided to give up my General Mills loyalty to try them out. But these "Spooners" come in a bag, so I also gave up the box.

Malt O’ Meal started a campaign called - Bag the Box. It is exactly what it entails. To reduce packaging waste, their cereals are in a sturdy plastic bag instead of a box. Check out this video:

But that’s not all Malt-O-Meal (MOM) is doing to reduce packaging waste. If you take a look at their cereal bags you will find, next to the “Bag the Box” label, the TerraCycle label.

The international company’s slogan is “Eliminating the Idea of Waste”. Their mission is to turn common waste materials, like MOM brand cereal bags, Clif Bar wrappers, and applesauce pouches, into innovative products. The first step is to select the “brigade”, then gather the materials, and ship them to the nearest collection site where they will be creatively reused. The MOM products brigade is shown below:

More information about TerraCycle can be found here.

This is just one example of a company's successful waste reduction campaign, but there are ways that you, as a consumer, can reduce packaging waste. Here are some ways to REDUCE packaging waste with your groceries:

  • skip the individually wrapped snacks - chip bags, cheese sticks, granola bars, apple sauce pouches, juice cartons - although these are easier to use, especially with kids, try using reusable containers, bottles, and bags

  • buy in bulk - (this saves $$$ too)

  • purchase loose produce ... and reuse your produce bags

  • avoid Styrofoam at all costs

  • opt for brands, like Malt O’ Meal, that use less packaging

In the hierarchy of waste management, reduction is ranked as the highest priority, above reuse and recycling. You can start making reduction a priority in your home starting with the grocery store.


Bike for a Free Coffee

Today, after a yummy lunch, I walked out of Everest on Grand and spotted a blue and yellow sign on the window that read - “Bicycle Benefits” 10% off!

The restaurant was a member of a nationwide organization, Bicycle Benefits, that provides bikers a discount at participating businesses. By purchasing a 5$ sticker and placing it on your helmet, you can receive discounts at coffee shops, grocery stores, or the florist simply by riding your bike.


In economic terms, biking is a positive externality, an activity that indirectly benefits society. By choosing not to drive their car, bikers are reducing global carbon emissions. In the ideal world, we would pay bikers to keep biking, or subsidize bike riding. And that’s where Bicycle Benefits come in.

The organization is raising awareness about the power of bike riding by offering bicyclers a reward at local businesses, similar to a subsidy. Consumers respond to incentives: BOGO, SALE, clearance, and so the signage is also growing a bike revolution.

Participating shops and cafes value the importance of bicycling, and are willing to give up some cash to offer discounts to those who ride their bikes. You can check out the Twin Cities participants

on a map

or in a handy Pocket List

And hop on your bike for a free coffee! You deserve it :)

Creative Approaches to Zero Waste

I've been posting on Facebook more than here, but the information is worthy of sharing! 

The past few years of work have been centered around waste - be it managing materials on a tv commercial sets, donating large custom props to keep them out of the landfill, helping the MN State Fair assess their front-of-the-house waste, to working with commercial entities and institutions to implement organics collection. 

Every little thing counts. I've noticed more recycling containers around the Minneapolis park systems and lakes and curbside organics recycling is just about roll out in Minneapolis!

Here are some links regarding waste initiatives around the world that make a difference:

Germany. A grocery store that translates to "Original Unpackaged". The entire store is package free! 

The Take Away did a great piece about Dan Barber, the executive chef and co-owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Sleepy Hollow, NY. The restaurant makes no waste! Scraps are made into special lemonades, veggies burgers are made from peels and pulps. Innovation creating no waste, and food people didn't know they wanted! 

Clothes made from ocean trash and other plastic waste! 

Can Can Wonderland, mini golf and artist-created amusements: an economic engine for the arts, in St. Paul, recently received nearly 60 PVC tubes from EcoSet Consulting. This is one example of EcoSet keeping custom prop built for one meeting out of the landfill, giving materials to artists, and showcasing that reuse is also good for the budget!




Hennepin Energy Recovery Center

I participate in a Waste Collaborative group through Environmental Initiative - a Minneapolis-based non-profit that builds partnerships to find solutions to environmental problems. This group consists of a variety of businesses (health care, recyclers, grocery stores, food producers, manufacturers), non-profits and public organizations. It provides a space to share best practices, challenges, innovative solutions, and business connections. 

The last meeting was about zero-waste initiatives and included a tour of the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center - or HERC - which is right smack in the middle of one of the most vibrant areas of downtown Minneapolis - the North Loop. 

The HERC serves Hennepin County and processes 365,000 tons of waste per year. That averages out to six pounds of waste per person, per day (yikes). This doesn't include construction and demolition or yard waste, which are processed at other facilities. 

On average, HERC burns 3,000 tons of waste each day. Trucks dump on the tipping floor, and the waste enters the pit, which holds 7,000-10,000 tons, before being craned into the burners. For kids that love diggers and machinery - running the crane would be a dream job! 

The tipping floor on the left is where garbage trucks dump their loads. Waste is then pushed into the pit. The crane moves waste around - pulling out large objects like mattresses and bicycles. Loads are then craned into the burners on the right, where waste is incinerated, and heat captured and turned into energy.

The tipping floor on the left is where garbage trucks dump their loads. Waste is then pushed into the pit. The crane moves waste around - pulling out large objects like mattresses and bicycles. Loads are then craned into the burners on the right, where waste is incinerated, and heat captured and turned into energy.

The burning process is highly regulated for emissions, and HERC continues to come in well under their authorized emission rates. The onsite burning (at 1,500-2,000 degrees!) in huge, multi-story ovens, provides 31 megawatts of energy to Xcel - heating Target Field and several other downtown businesses. Recovered heat from the Cooling Tower is used to heat glycol tubing underneath the Target Station Pavilion, which means no snow removal required (no need for staff and no need for chemicals). 

The tour is open to the public and I encourage everyone to go see it. I'm trying to do what I can to help people actually see what we produce - to get the trash out from behind the building. 7,000 tons of trash sounds like a lot - but seeing it burns that image into your mind!

We can do better than six pounds of waste per person, per day. We can use what we now think of as waste as a resource. Limit purchasing. Be thoughtful about packaging. Choose recycled content items. Compost. 

Pay attention to what you're producing and know where it goes after you're done with it.


Minneapolis Organics Collection

It's amazing how things change as you get older ... especially the things you get excited about. For example, I received a surprise, already installed new toilet for my birthday a few years ago and it remains one of my all time favorite gifts! 

I felt that giddy excitement with the City of Minneapolis roll-out of single sort bins for recycling, which I almost always fill to the top - as a single person. That excitement continues for the City of Minneapolis organic collection. Although I am disappointed the bins are small, and that my house isn't on the spring 2015 map, I'm still proud that steps are being taken to change the way we address waste. 

I've been participating in commercial grade composting at home for about a year now, dropping the bags off at a site not far from home. It's so easy and so remarkable. I'm down to about one plastic-sized Target bag of trash per week. It basically just contains product wrappers. Between that and bags of dog poo, everything else is composted or recycled! It's so satisfying. 

I wish that my amazing green bin would arrive sooner, but until then, I'll continue to drop off compost. Better yet, I'll continue to work with companies big and small to help them achieve the same sort of excitement that comes from progress. I urge you to do the same.