by Dylan Morrissette, going into 6th grade, Anthony Middle School
Because my mom created this MPLSGreen.com website, and because my sister works with Cool Planet Minnesota to learn about climate change, I know how much work we have to do to help keep our planet healthy. Right now it is pretty sick — pollution in the air, ground, water. And we are the ones who will have to live with it as it gets worse — storms, illness, lack of resources that we now take for granted (like bees who help make one-third of our food!)
What I’m interested in finding out is… where does our garbage go in Minneapolis? What can we make out of our waste food, wood, metal, plastics to make things better?
This is the start of my journey.
How We “Get Rid” of Garbage
In Minneapolis, garbage is sent to the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) in downtown Minneapolis, which burns 365,000 tons of garbage a year and turns it into electricity that is sold to Xcel Energy.
The steam from the burn is used to power downtown Minneapolis and Target Field. The solid parts that are left over becomes ash that is sent to a landfill. Some of the steam is condensed into water that goes back into the HERC boiler. And the pollutants that go into the air are treated to reduce the harmful chemicals that we would end up breathing.
The HERC system has won an award for its environmentally smart practices. You can watch a video about it here:
Does that mean throwing everything in the garbage is good?
Where we live, there are good policies in place to take care of some of our garbage. But, we produce more than we should — and it gets harder and harder to take care of it. And some of it shouldn’t be going into the trash at all, but into recycling (story to come about what happens at recycling plants) or composting (story to come about that too!) or re-used and turned into something else.
It gets harder to take care of the 4.5 pounds of garbage that every one of us tends to throw into the garbage everyday. Not everyone has a HERC facility — and not everything is burned instead of sent to the landfill. What goes into landfills comes into the air as methane gas and other toxins and floats into our lungs.
If we started thinking about what we buy before we do, some experts think we could reduce almost half of the garbage we produce.
Do NOT throw this in your trash
There are some things that should never go into the regular garbage because they include dangerous materials. Our leftover computers, certain light bulbs, batteries, paints, pesticides, medicines and other things contain toxic parts and chemicals that we don’t want to burn or go into our air. Learn more about those here.
There is a special collection place in Brooklyn Park and Bloomington that takes those items. And there are special collection days when you can bring them to a nearby facility. Or, especially for computers and other electronics, places like Tech Dump will take them and often turn them into something else instead.
How can we help our city reduce its garbage?
- Throw out leftover food, as well as recyclable plastics, cardboard and other things in recycling bins instead of the garbage, at school and at home. Hennepin County helps schools, apartments, houses, events, and businesses set that up.
- Encourage our families to go to restaurants that use composting. Here are some of them.
- Find more ideas here.
Use the REPLY field below to offer other ideas about how you and your family reduces waste.
Other Great Resources
- A scorecard that lets you find out how much pollution is caused when you buy certain products. Although much of the information is at least 10 years old, it’s a good indication of how much work we have to do to keep our air and water clean. You’ll also see that the biggest pollutants are from coal facilities.
- Interesting facts about garbage numbers.
- Type in “how much garbage do we produce” into your favorite computer search engine, and see what you come up with!