Waste? What’s the Problem?

Angie Timmons
Hennepin County Environmental Services

The average Minnesotan generates more than seven pounds of waste per day or more than a ton annually! Companies are producing more goods than ever before, and we are consuming goods at a faster rate than ever. From convenient single-serving containers that use more elaborate packaging to new electronic devices that replace the older versions more quickly, we are throwing more and more away. In fact, in the Twin Cities, area we generate enough waste to fill the Metrodome 11 times every year. Although Minnesota has one of the highest recycling rates in the country, we could be recycling more. One-third of what we throw away at home could be recycled in curbside programs.

Dispose of hazardous items properly

Some of our waste is hazardous and needs to be managed properly. Many household lawn and garden products, including adhesives, cleaning solvents, and pesticides have hazardous and toxic ingredients. Other items like electronics and batteries may contain toxic metals such as lead, cadmium, and silver. More items of concern are mercury-containing items, for example fluorescent bulbs, thermometers, and thermostats. Improper disposal of household hazardous waste, by throwing it in the garbage or pouring it down the drain, could harm your family or your garbage hauler. Improper disposal may also contaminate the air, water, and soil.

Where does our waste go?

In the Twin Cities, about 41 percent of waste is recycled, 32 percent is processed at waste-to-energy facilities to create electricity or fuel, and 27 percent is sent to landfills in Minnesota and other states.

Are we making a difference?

Yes! In the Twin Cities metro area, we are seeing progress:

Waste generation is growing slower than population growth

Participation at county household hazardous waste collection sites has increased. In 2007, we collected more that 15 millions pounds of material.

Residents and businesses are recycling more. Every year by recycling, we:

Save enough energy to power 93,000 homes.

Save the consumption of 100,000 tons of iron ore, coal, and limestone which are replaced by recycled materials.

Save six thousand acres of forest.

Reduce air emissions equivalent to removing 157,000 cars off the road.

What more can I do?

Look for more ways to reduce waste, like getting your name off junk mail lists and purchasing items with less packaging, and carrying a reusable mug and bag.

Find creative ways to reuse items.

Recycle more.


Reduce the use of hazardous product.

Properly manage your hazardous waste.

Act Locally

Anoka County Integrated Waste Management,

Carver County Environmental Services, co.carver.mn.us

Dakota County Environmental Management,

Hennepin County Environmental Services,

Ramsey County Environmental Health, co.ramsey.mn.us/ph
Recycling/Solid Waste Hotline,
651-633-EASY (3279)

Scott County Environmental Health, co.scott.mn.us

Washington County Public Health and Environment, 

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, reduce.org


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