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Stories: recycling


the emily program

"Hilmar Wagner, Director of Nutrition Services for The Emily Program, wanted to start an organics recycling program. Food is a central part of The Emily Program’s mission and operations.

Wagner believed that embracing sustainability by recycling food waste and non-recyclable paper would be a good fit with the program, but they needed assistance getting started. They reached out to the Recycling Experts from BizRecycling for help.

Staff and clients alike appreciate the improved recycling program. Participation has been impressive and overall feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. 

In their first year, The Emily Program diverted over 20,000 pounds of organics."

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hamline university

Hamline University was well ahead of the curve with organics recycling, having started one of the first food waste recycling programs in the Twin Cities in 1991.

When Hamline University planned to relocate its main kitchen and food service operations to a new building, the Anderson Center, they wanted to expand and improve their organics recycling. 

A BizRecycling Expert evaluated the University’s waste stream and existing recycling program, and found several opportunities to improve their recycling with a  consistent color-coded system, improved organic recycling, and overall streamlining waste management processes.

By reconfiguring the waste transfer system, they cut labor costs by nearly 15% and reduced waste and recycling hauler expenses by more than half.


There were some initial capital outlays for trash and recycling compactors and other equipment, but the return on investment for equipment purchases was about 2 years. Hamline University is now saving about $6,000 a year on their waste management.

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hampden park co-op

"Thanks to Hampden Park Co-op’s ongoing commitment to being good stewards of the environment, their organics recycling program is diverting over 60 tons of compostable materials a year. They also donate over 6,000 pounds of eatable food to food shelves. Hampden Park Co-op has a system in place to recycle plastic wrap, which keeps an additional three tons or more of material out of the landfill.


Their General Manager says, 'I’m so grateful to be able to do this here! We are showing how we are living our co-operative values and that enforces our connection to our community.' "

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Through the support of a Special Ministry grant, SAPLC is now “recycling” food and non-recyclable paper through an organics composting program.


In this program, all food scraps, unlined paper (such as napkins and paper towels) and other certified compostable products are placed in a single container. A hauler picks up the "waste" and delivers it to a composting facility. After six to nine months, the material has been recycled into compost that is put to good use in landscaping and road construction projects.

Why do this?


Finished compost is an organic-rich soil amendment that is used to improve soils, prevent soil erosion and runoff, and capture carbon dioxide for climate protection.


This project benefits the congregation, Minnesota, and the global community by managing our waste in the most responsible way possible. Reducing food waste, and “recycling” food and non-recyclable paper through composting reduces greenhouse gas emissions, among other benefits. New trash, recycling, and composting containers are also welcoming to visitors and new attendees, as they will be more visible and well labeled, making it easier to know what to do with napkins and cups during coffee hour and dinners.


Challenges & Successes

The trickiest part was communicating the change with the contracted cleaning service. "It was like a game of telephone from our church administrator, to the owner of the company, to the employees. But with persistence and clear labeling of the bags and dumpsters we worked through it."

Congregation member Britt Gangeness lead the transition to the improved waste system, and recommends starting with, which is info and assistance for organizations in Ramsey and Washington Counties.

For the future, Britt hopes the congregation can become more involved in collective change for sustainability, such as efforts at the city, state or federal level.

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"Healing Elements focuses on having a small footprint in terms of packaging. We use only eco-friendly packaging for our shipping, partnering with and also we focus on bulk goods and retail products. We also compost and we collect our coffee grounds for gardening for folks in the neighborhood."

kate daly pottery

"As a potter, I try to recycle or work in a modest green environment whenever possible.

After trimming, the scraps go into a “scrap bucket”, where I add water, let it dissolve, water evaporates, mix and reuse.
I try to repurpose for throwing by making votives that aren’t affected by the potential irregularities.

The water throwing bucket gets murky with clay, so I turn it into clay slip, which can be used for raised surface design work on pottery.

When using my spray booth, glaze builds up on the walls. I scrape and the scrapings go into a bucket to make a scrappy glaze that I sieve and use for glazing new pottery. It usually turns out to be an interesting glaze that’s a one off, but good for a year or so.

Broken bits get further broken up and used for mosaics balls. I don’t do this as often because the end product turns heavy using plaster.

Also after making hand built ideas from flat pieces there’s always leftover flat pieces that I use cookie cutters to make buttons and other ornaments. The remainder goes into the scrap bucket above.

Seconds go to Goodwill and one offs without blemishes are givien as random gifts to acquaintances. Several years
ago a young mother with child squealed with delight when she saw Kate Daly Pottery because she manages some aspect of the Goodwill in Roseville. She claims that they always look forward to seeing my work.

I no longer buy bags, but use ones from gift shops. I affix my Kate Daly Pottery sticker to the outside and use for customer purchases. A friend saves her bags as well for me to use."

                                                              - Kate Daly




At the housing cooperative Zvago Saint Anthony Park, the majority of the residents are active participants in the community — serving on the board or committees, taking on volunteer tasks, checking in on one another. 


They have several committees and most consider sustainability in their decision making. Two are focused more wholly on it — the Waste Reduction Committee and the Committee on Energy Resilience and Sustainability (COERS). 


Waste Reduction has educated the community through an occasional newsletter, organizing an event where items were shown that could/should be recycled or reused, and through signage to help members deliver their trash and recyclables to the proper containers. 


A "Trash Talk" event in November 2019 included two speakers from Ramsey County Environment Health, co-op members made displays of things that can and cannot be recycled and composted, and a game to test neighbors’ knowledge. They also handed out kitchen composting containers and compostable bags to those who wanted to start this practice.

Zvago SAP promotes the Big R’s of Waste Reduction:

Refuse: Don’t consume what you don’t need.

Reduce: Consume less energy and materials.

Re-use: Share with others and find new uses for things.

Repair: Fix objects rather than throwing them away.

Re-Gift: Share as a gift and be a part of the gift economy. 

Recover: Save things (metal, fabric, etc.) that might otherwise end up in the trash (dumpster diving anyone?)

Recycle: Close the loop and remake.

They helped members separate their organics from other materials — they provide compostable bags, and began by collecting them there and delivering them to local collection sites. This was so successful that they were having to make two trips a week, so they engaged their waste/recycling hauler to pick up the organics, too. Members of the committee also collect and recycle electronics, batteries, LED and CFL bulbs, textiles, and metals, and notify members when they plan to make a delivery of hazardous waste or expired medications.


The Waste Reduction Committee is now applying for a BizRecycling grant to provide aesthetic collection bins for our common spaces, new signage for the collection rooms (from Trash to Trash/Recycling), and easier entry to those collection rooms.



Bro-Tex has numerous green practices in place, including recycling various unique items (stretch wrap, oil, fluorescent lights, even carpet until recently), a solar array for renewable energy, as well as using a high number of recycled materials in their sold products.

One fascinating form of recycling they take part in is called "Midwest Floating Island," which is the production of man-made islands created from PET-recycled (BPA-free) plastic bottles. These are floating ecosystems that improve water quality by removing nitrate, phosphorus, and ammonia, provide a place for pollinator plants to grow, provide refuge for wildlife away from the shore, and reduce algae growth. The islands keep 3000 bottles out of landfills per 100 square feet of wetland.

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