Draft Zero Waste Actions and report summarizing the process to develop the proposed actions

In November 2022, Hennepin County Zero Waste Plan staff shared a draft document detailing the proposed actions for the county’s Zero Waste Plan. The actions are organized around four aims:

  1. Create a materials management system that reduces racial disparities and advances equity
  2. Expand the reach of county waste education, grants, and programs
  3. Adopt policies that accelerate the transition to a zero-waste future
  4. Implement programs to advance circularity, reduce waste, and support reuse

More details about the proposed aims and the supporting actions are described below and in this supporting memo (PDF). Staff also published a Zero Waste Plan development report (PDF) summarizing the process to develop the proposed actions, including the public engagement processes so far and how the county’s Racial Equity Impact Tool is being used to guide the Zero Waste Plan process.

The Zero Waste Plan actions memo and the process summary report were developed to seek the county board’s feedback at a briefing on the priorities to advance a zero waste future and if there is anything else to address before the full draft plan is developed and made available for final public comment.

This board briefing was scheduled for November 2022, but was postponed due to scheduling conflicts. This website will be updated as soon as a new date is identified and the tasks and timeline for Phase 3: Review of the plan are updated.

Mapping a zero-waste future: aims and actions

Aim 1: Create a materials management system that reduces racial disparities and advances equity

Inequity in the waste system unfairly shifts some of the impacts of waste management to overburdened communities, creates disproportionate access to services and opportunities, and results in pollution unfairly borne by communities and neighborhoods experiencing disparities. This includes the impacts that hauling and waste facilities such as the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) and landfills have on their adjacent communities.

To create an equitable zero-waste system, shared responsibility is needed. Communities, businesses, government, and the waste industry must contribute equitably to the effort. If only a portion of the county has access to programs that achieve zero waste or the negative impacts of waste processing are borne by a sector of the community, zero waste will not be achievable, nor will the system be equitable.

The actions proposed under Aim 1 address concerns and solutions that emerged during engagement with community members often left out of the solid waste decision-making process. Proposed actions include expanding recycling and organics collection and drop-off options, addressing litter, improving recycling and organics recycling access at multifamily properties, increasing living-wage green jobs, establishing a waste equity panel, funding community solutions, providing financial incentives for participation, and establishing milestones to phase-out HERC.

Aim 2: Expand the reach of county education, grants, and programs

The county has many effective programs to help residents, businesses, and institutions reduce and divert waste, but awareness of these programs is lacking. Examples of existing programs include grants for multifamily properties, businesses, building deconstruction, and community organizations; Ordinance 13 recycling requirements for multifamily properties and businesses and organics diversion requirements for large food waste generators; and residential educational programing such as the Zero Waste, Stop Food Waste, and Plastic-Free challenges, Fix-It Clinics, and Choose to Reuse.

The actions proposed under Aim 2 build upon existing programming to collectively increase their impacts, expand their reach, and add new targets. Proposed actions include improved marketing of existing programs and resources, expanding grant and technical assistance to businesses, multifamily properties, schools, and building contractors, improving compliance with Ordinance 13 recycling and organics recycling requirements, expanding education and outreach, and ensuring adequate capacity to process organics.

Aim 3: Adopt policies that accelerate the transition to a zero-waste future

To reach zero waste, policy changes are needed to ensure that responsible recovery of materials is standard practice throughout the community. Well-designed policy at both the local and state level is a key component of successful zero-waste systems. The community scan conducted during the Zero Waste Plan development process found that policies such as disposal bans, extended producer responsibility, mandatory programs, and organized collection were key system components in communities with high recycling rates.

The actions proposed under Aim 3 will require action at the city, county, and state level to move the county to an equitable zero-waste system. Proposed actions include adopting extended producer responsibility for product packaging, right to repair and single-use product ban policies, developing a food waste reduction target and plan, transitioning to organized collection, and implementing a county procurement policy that aligns with a circular economy.

Aim 4: Implement programs to advance circularity, reduce waste, and support reuse

The county must look beyond end of life and recycling and shift more of its focus to upstream impacts, reuse, waste minimization, and the built environment. By supporting material end markets, the county can help create a resilient circular economy at the regional level. In such a system, demand for reused or recycled commodities can drive supply and create favorable economic conditions for increased recovery.

The actions proposed under Aim 4 look to innovative solutions to change the way we view and manage materials. Proposed actions include expanding reuse and repair options, increasing deconstruction and building material reuse, establishing a county innovation hub, strengthening end markets, and expanding financial incentives for the reuse industry.

Learn more

Review the actions that support these four main aims in the draft actions summary (PDF).

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