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What is organics recycling?

Organics recycling is the recycling of organic waste into compost, a nutrient rich soil. Organic waste includes food scraps and other materials that can be broken down by the natural process of rot. Anything that once was alive is organic and can be composted. Organic waste will be packaged in special bags, picked up by a truck just like garbage and taken to commercial composting facilities at Empire Township, near Rosemount, and the City of Mayer in Caver County. Organic waste is turned into compost by decomposition, which happens as bacteria and fungi eat the organic waste turning it into compost. The composting process takes about 12 to 18 months to complete. The finished compost is used throughout the Twin Cities metro area by landscapers, and in road projects. For information on the science of composting, including educational materials and lesson plans, see the links at right.

Why is Organics Recycling Important?

It reduces our trash (R.O.T.).

Waste and what to do with it is a growing problem. Much of a school's waste is organic and could be recycled. The MPS organics recycling programs are diverting 6-7 tons of trash to organics each month. The MPS average organics recycling rate is 15% of its total waste stream. Some schools are recycling over 50% of their waste!

It is Educational

Composting provides an educational, hands-on way to learn about decomposition and environmental stewardship. Students are actually a part of the composting process. Tools for teaching and learning about organics recycling and the composting process can be found in the links to the right. Teaching on organics recycling meets MN curriculum standards, (see links).

It Saves Money

Composting saves money. This is because waste must be moved from the school waste bins to somewhere. It is either brought to the incinerator or to the organics and mixed recycling facility. The cost of moving organic matter to the composting facility is cheaper than the cost of moving trash to the incinerator due to tax incentives and less expensive processing.

  • The cost of hauling organics is $15 per ton vs. about $41.85 per ton for trash. As organics are much heavier than the plastics that are kept out, savings can be substantial.
  • Source Separated Organics (SSO) are exempt from the county solid waste fee of 14.5% and state solid waste tax of 17%. If we recycle a large amount of organics, we could save money.
  • Organics customers are finding their trash hauler can pick up less frequently, saving labor, fuel and truck maintenance costs that are built into pick up fees.
 

What does it take to have a successful organics program at my school?

Twenty-two MPS sites volunteered to participate in organics recycling. Each of these sites has a designated organics coordinator who trains students and manages the process through communication with school staff.

Organics recycling will be successful if the school’s students and staff are committed. Building engineers, principals, staff and students all play important roles in making organics recycling a success. Giving a presentation on the importance of organics recycling can help with commitment. Staff can help by taking active roles in teaching and learning about organics recycling. Students can help by being creative with the promotion of the organics recycling program. Student monitors at the lunchroom organics bins have been particularly successful at schools, as have student presentations on organics at assemblies, and contests between lunch periods. The more meaningful organics recycling becomes, the more value the program will have, giving it a better chance of success.

If you are interested in bringing organics recycling to your school for the 2011-2012 school year, please see the sidebar on this page for some helpful resources, including the MPS Organics Coordinator Handbook, a training guide for organics recycling volunteers and communication templates extracted from the handbook.

E-mail: mpsgoesgreen@mpls.k12.mn.us for further information.