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Organics – Ramsey / Washington County – j

Organics recycling is the collection of organic matter, such as food scraps and food-soiled paper from households.

 

Organic material could make up to 30% of your waste. While organics break down quickly in commercial composting facilities, it takes much longer to break down in landfills because there is less oxygen.

 

Participating in Organics recycling is an easy and more convenient way to reduce waste by collecting and recycling at-home organics for commercial composting.

 

The Ramsey/Washington County food scraps pickup program is currently available to all residents of the following Cities:

  • Ramsey County: Maplewood & North St. Paul
  • Washington County: Cottage Grove & Newport

 

For more information on Organics in Ramsey/Washington County, click on Phasing Plan – Food Scraps Pickup Program

 

Residents in communities who are not yet eligible to participate in the food scraps pickup program can use the counties’ food scraps drop-off sites to recycle food scraps. Food scrap drop-off sites will continue to be available to residents as the program rolls out.

Here are a few lists of what should be collected and what should not.


Acceptable Organics Recycling

Food waste and food-soiled paper are called organic waste. It includes:

  • Food Scraps
  • Fruits & Vegetable scraps
  • Meats, fish & bones
  • Bread, pasta, & baked goods
  • Spoiled leftovers
  • Egg and nut shells
  • Dairy products
  • Tea leaves (staples removed)
  • Coffee grounds
  • Food-soiled paper products
  • Paper towels & napkins
  • Paper plates & cups (uncoated)
  • Soiled Pizza boxes
  • Paper Egg cartons
  • Tea bags (staples removed)
  • Coffee Filters
  • Other Compostable Items
  • Tissues & cotton balls
  • Floral trimmings & house plants
  • BPI-Certified materials


Non-Acceptable Materials for Organics

These items should not go into your organics bag

  • Twist Ties
  • Plastics
  • Plastic bags
  • Glass
  • Metal
  • Styrofoam
  • Foil / Aluminum
  • Straws
  • Microwave Popcorn bags
  • K-Cups from single serving Coffees
  • Diapers or wipes
  • Pet Droppings – Kitty Litter
  • Feminine Hygiene products
  • Cigarette butts
  • Rocks or bricks
  • Automobile & engine fluids
  • Band-Aids or first aid items
  • Batteries
  • Candles or wax
  • Candy or chip wrappers
  • Rubber wine corks
  • Gum
  • Garden Trimmings or Yard waste
  • Juice boxes or Pouches
  • Chalk, crayons
  • Markers & Pens
  • Dusting wipes
  • Detergents: (liquids, power, sheets or tablets)
  • Butter or margin wrappers
  • Paper Plates and cups (unless they are BPI certified)
  • Waxed parchment paper
  • Wax-coated paperboard packaging
  • Take out or To go packaging (unless it’s BPI certified)
  • Dryer Line
  • Cork
  • Q-tips
  • Frozen foods and refrigerated food packaging

Best practices for at-home organics collection. Discard your food waste and food-soiled paper from meals, your refrigerator, and the pantry into a kitchen compost bucket, separate from your other household trash. Use a kitchen scraps recycling setup that is most convenient for you and your household. 

  • Use a container with a vented lid.  Vented containers allow moisture to evaporate, slowing down the decomposition process of the food in your organics recycling container. This will reduce odors and help your compostable plastic bags hold up longer. If you’re purchasing a container, look for one with a vented lid. If you’re making your own, poke holes in the lid.
  • Remove liquids. Liquids in your organics recycling container can speed up the decomposition of food and weaken compostable bags. To avoid this, be sure to drain excess liquids before placing food scraps in your collection container. You can also place paper towels or newspaper at the bottom of your collection container to absorb liquids.
  • Keep your container in the fridge or freezer. Keeping your collection container in the refrigerator or freezer slows down the decomposition process, reduces odors, and prevents pests such as fruit flies. It can also help your compostable bags last longer.
  • Collect organics throughout your house. Although we generate the most organics recycling in the kitchen, there are opportunities to collect materials for organics recycling throughout the house. One idea for the bathroom: convert your bathroom trash container to an organics bin and clip a smaller cup to the bin to collect trash. Compostable items like tissues, Q-tips and cotton balls go in the organics compartment, while garbage items like dental floss go in the smaller cup.

Q. Why collect food scraps?
A: Food scraps make upwards of 30% of the trash by weight collected in Ramsey and Washington counties. The counties are developing a new way to recover this material so that it can be turned back into soil, rather than becoming waste. Recovering food scraps from trash will help reach the state’s recycling goals and provide health, environmental, and economic benefits to the community.

Q. Why use food scrap bags instead of separate carts?
A.Food scrap bags are a more efficient and cost-effective method of collecting food scraps from Ramsey and Washington County residents’ homes than a separate collection cart because:

  • According to the counties’ analysis, a system using food scrap bags costs ten times less than a system that uses separate collection carts.
  • Food scrap bags do not require additional collection days, collection carts, or hauling trucks
  • Using food scrap bags instead of a separate cart system keeps fewer collection trucks on the road resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Food scrap bags allows all residents to participate, regardless of their housing type, city or hauler.


Q. What does it mean that the program is rolling out in phases?

A. The food scraps pickup program model has not been implemented at this scale before. To ensure the program is successful, Ramsey and Washington counties are rolling out the program in phases and planning to make adjustments as needed. Each phase will include new eligible areas. The timeline of these phases is subject to change and will be adjusted as the counties learn more about how to make the program successful.

Throughout rollout, only eligible areas within the counties will have their food scrap bags sorted. More information about program rollout can be found here.

Q. Will Ramsey and Washington counties’ food scrap drop-off sites still be available?
A. Yes. The food scraps pickup program will be one part of a larger system for collecting food scraps. You may prefer the drop-off sites or backyard composting – do what works best for you!

Q. Who can participate?
A. All residents of Ramsey and Washington counties will be eligible to participate in the program. The food scraps pickup program will roll out to new areas in phases. Check if you are eligible to participate.

Can I participate if I live in an apartment building or condo?
Yes! Just put your food scrap bags in your building’s trash cart or dumpster.

Q. When will the program be available in my community?
A: The food scraps pickup program started rolling out to residents of Ramsey and Washington counties in 2023 with an initial pilot of the program. Following the pilot, the program will roll out to the rest of Ramsey and Washington County residents in phases. You can check if you’re eligible to participate here, and visit the program rollout page to learn more.

Q. What happens to my food scrap bag after I put it in my trash?
A. After you place your food scrap bag inside your trash cart, dumpster or trash chute, your trash is collected as usual. Only food scrap bags used at home and placed in residential trash carts, dumpsters or trash chutes will be collected and sorted. Your trash hauler will pick up your trash—with the food scrap bags—on your regular collection day.

The trash is brought to the Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy Center (R&E) in Newport, where the food scrap bags are separated from your trash by machinery that is programmed to recognize and separate the bags.

The food scrap bags and their contents are then sent to an industrial composting facility and turned into nutrient-rich soil called “compost.”

Ramsey and Washington counties have worked together to manage waste responsibly since the 1980s. Today, the counties work jointly through R&E. All trash generated by individuals and businesses in the two counties is delivered to R&E.

Q. How are the bags sorted from the trash?
A. Robotic sorting technology will be used to separate the food scrap bags from the trash. Video of the robots sorting food scrap bags is available to view on the learn more page.

Q. How can I learn more about the Ramsey/Washington County Food Scraps pickup Program?
A: We have provided a direct link to the Ramsey/Washington Food scraps program here: https://foodscrapspickup.com/pages/faq

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