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Small-town Minnesota will start recycling food scraps

| December 11, 2013

St. Cloud, Minnesota is known for a few things: cold winters, providing the setting for the movie Juno, and being located in Representative Michele Bachmann’s district.

food scraps

Tri-County Organics will accept food scraps. From Steven Depolo.

You’d be forgiven for not immediately associating St. Cloud with innovative recycling programs, but that’s exactly what’s happening in the central Minnesota city.

Tri-County Organics has obtained a state permit to accept organic waste such as food scraps. According to a widely-published Associated Press article, Tri-County’s management “hope to start receiving food scraps as soon as this week.”

That makes them part of a growing trend across the state and the nation. With organic materials making up an ever-increasing portion of the waste stream, there’s elevated demand for an eco-friendly method of disposal.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency “estimates that more than 519,000 tons of food waste could be composted annually.”

Enter Tri-County Organics.

There’s something inherently quaint about Tri-County Organics, where the hours are listed as “10 am – dusk.” Their approach, however, is as forward-thinking as it comes.

They already accept grass, leaves, brush, logs and stumps. (We can’t resist pointing out that they also make a point of accepting corn stalks, which are, of course, ubiquitous in the area.) With the new permit in hand, they can now take in “source separated organics.” That includes all food scraps, food soiled paper products (like pizza boxes), and approved compostable products.

food scraps

Tri-County Organics already accepts yard waste, such as brush and tree stumps. From bluekdesign.

“Now [these products aren’t] being landfilled or incinerated,” Jamie Phenow, general manager of Tri-County Organics told the Associated Press. Instead, they’re “being reintroduced to the soil,” which is where Phenow says they should be.

Tri-County Organics is in good company in the St. Cloud region. The College of Saint Benedict, a local private college for women, sends its food waste to a hog farm. The St. Cloud Hospital has their own composting system. Now that Tri-County Organics can accept food scraps, the St. Cloud school district and other institutions may be able to “send their food waste, paper serving containers and paper towels to the site.”

Right now, the program at Tri-County Organics is only set up to receive materials from commercial venues, but the program may eventually expand to accommodate private residents.

If you don’t exactly live next door to St. Cloud, don’t worry — the food recycling trend is booming all over the nation, and it’s manifesting in creative and varied ways.  In fact, if former Trader Joe’s president Doug Rauch has his way, you’ll soon be able to walk into a market and purchase recently expired food that would otherwise be on its way to a landfill.

What food recycling trends are cropping up in your neighborhood?

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Category: Blog Landing Page, Food

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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