Minneapolis Composting

IMG_2423Special thanks to Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association for its excellent Minneapolis composting and recycling forum in 2015, where much of this was discussed

The mixture of nitrogen-rich greens from food waste, and carbon-based browns from yard waste, combine over a six- to nine-month period to create useable compost for landscaping and road construction projects. But even if you’re not a gardener, there are financial and environmental reasons to create compost. If you have Minneapolis recycling and trash service (including renters), you are able to sign up to receive a green cart.

When Minneapolis begins curbside collecting of organic material from residents in Fall 2015 (Phase 1) and Spring 2016 (Phase 2), it will create a life cycle that feeds our community in multiple ways. NOTE: This is an opt-in program and you must sign-up to get a 32-gallon container; for larger households, 64-gallon containers can be requested.

  • In Spring 2015, the city will begin to provide toolkits to opt-in residents with home set-up tips, a recycling guide magnet, and coupons from retailers who sell compostable bags and pails.
  • Local residents who compost recommend that you label organics containers in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and bedrooms. It can be helpful to separate wet from dry; some store wet items in their freezer until it’s time to put them outdoors.
  • Families of four have been able to reduce their trash to one bag per week. If you ask the city to switch you to a smaller garbage cart, you will save $3/month, which offsets most of the added cost now on your bill for organics collection.

What Is Compostable and What is Not?

Many products and packaging might claim to be biodegradable — but that does not mean they can be composted as an organic product. Many resins decompose into something toxic! To help consumers, the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) has created a certification logo. Product packaging, such as most plastics, are not compostable unless they have this logo:

BPI_labelThe City of Minneapolis offers a good overview of how to dispose of various everyday things.

Visit MinneapolisMN.gov/organics for up-to-date details.

For Food Business Owners: Starting Earth Day (April 22, 2015), vendors offering portable food service items in the City of Minneapolis will no longer be allowed to use styrofoam containers. You can find local vendors of compostable plastic bags and foodservice ware at hennepin.us/organics.

Backyard vs. City Composting

If you’ve already started using a compost space in your backyard for food scraps, you might wonder how the city composting curbside collections that begin in late 2015 will offer a difference. Minneapolis uses a commercial site in Rosemount — Empire Processing — to create nutrient-rich compost from organics.

It can transform many more things than backyards can, partly because of the heat of decomposition (140 degrees on average, even in winter!), which breaks down bones, meat, dairy, grease on pizza boxes, and other things that backyard composting cannot make use of because of odors and harmful bacteria. [Story to come: the testing that Empire Processing does on its compost before cycling it back to communities, school gardens, and residential gardens. Not all compost is the same!]

Biodegradable diapers and animal bedding in cages are not compostable because of the toxicity of the content stored in them. Do Good Diapers is a local diaper delivery system that will collect diapers for a demonstration project that uses the diapers to create compostable product.

Drawbacks of NOT composting organics

  • Currently more than one-third of what Minneapolis residents put in our garbage could be composted. This material is buried or burned. In either case, valuable nutrients that could be recycled from food waste is lost.
  • Food scraps that decompose without oxygen conditions in a landfill create methane, a greenhouse gas that traps heat substantially more than carbon dioxide (which can be valuable energy). This is the single greatest human source of most of the methane in our atmosphere.
  • Decomposing food scraps ooze through trash and pick up other toxins to create a dangerous sludge that leaks into the groundwater.
  • U.S. soil is eroding at 17 times the rate at which it forms — nutrient-rich compost can rejuvenate our exhausted soils and grow healthier food.
  • Food waste put into garbage disposals is actually more harmful environmentally than putting into garbage. It is ultimately treated in the same way as garbage — but takes longer to get there, after going through water treatment system.

Benefits of Using Compost in Your Garden

  • improves soil’s ability to retain nutrients and stabilizes soil pH
  • reduces need for use of chemical pesticides
  • improves ability of soil to retain water (reduces erosion and watering needs)
  • suppresses weed growth
  • degrades pollutants
  • captures carbon dioxide for climate protection

Related Resources


A Girl Scout troop offered this great link to a kids guide to recycling, which includes everything from a recycling quiz to student activities around recycling to a recycling tool kit including a scavenger hunt. They used it, and this page, to earn a Go Green badge.



  • generally add three parts of dry ingredients (leaves, dry grass) to one part of wet food waste
  • keep moist like a wrung-out sponge (beads of moisture should form between fingers if you randomly grab a handful and squeeze into your fist)
  • turn the pile monthly with a pitch fork or shovel if you want to speed up decomposition.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency:

  • Composting solutions if your backyard compost has a rotten egg smell, ammonia smell, pile doesn’t heat up for decomposition, or attracts rodents and other animals
  • Tips on reducing, re-using and preventing waste

Video: Backyard composting tutorial (from Sarasota County, Florida)

University of Minnesota guide to managing organic yard waste



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