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A landfill compactor on top of a mound of garbage in a landfill.

The MPCA studies Minnesota's solid waste composition and processes to inform policy recommendations, legislative proposals, education and outreach messages, and waste reduction efforts.

Nearly two-thirds of what ends up in landfills and garbage incinerators in Minnesota could have been reused, recycled, or composted. If the current trends continue, nearly eight million tons of additional waste will be sent to landfills over the next 20 years. Reducing the amount of waste going to landfills will improve public health, conserve energy and natural resources, and reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Policy report

Every four years, the MPCA issues a report to the Minnesota Legislature that provides an update on the state of sustainable materials management and solid waste across Minnesota, including progress towards current goals and program-specific highlights. It also identifies opportunities for further research and action and proposes recommendations for new or modified policies to advance efforts statewide. 

2023 report

The report identifies and ranks in priority order seven focus areas for the state to pursue in the next several years: 

  • Food systems  
    • Require the reduction of wasted food, annual reporting, and proper food management for large generators of wasted food.   
  • Data collection and analysis  
    • Require waste composition studies at solid waste facilities statewide on a recurring basis.  
    • Expand waste reporting to require measurement of all waste streams (MSW, C&D, Industrial).  
  • Reuse, rental, and repair  
    • Establish an ongoing statewide waste reduction and reuse grant program.  
  • Buildings and materials  
    • Establish a statewide deconstruction requirement for state and local government-owned buildings.   
  • Extended producer responsibility  
    • Implement a statewide extended producer responsibility program for packaging and paper products.
    • Implement a statewide deposit refund program.  
  • Organics and recycling services  
    • Require organics curbside collection or drop-off sites by city size and distance from an organics facility or transfer station.  
  • Solid waste recovery and disposal facilities  
    • Develop a guidance for consistently incorporating environmental justice in solid waste permit review and issuance.  
    • Establish clear regulations for when closed landfills can exit the formal post-closure period. 

Visit the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library to find previous reports in this series.

The SCORE report

Minnesota's SCORE laws provide funding for recycling programs and support waste reduction and management of household hazardous wastes and problem materials. The Governor’s Select Committee on Recycling and the Environment (SCORE) proposed the laws in 1989.

The annual report on SCORE programs presents information submitted by solid waste officers in all 87 counties and the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District. It summarizes waste management efforts in the state, including funding and costs, waste reduction activities, recycling, composting, household hazardous waste programs, and problem materials collection. This information is used to calculate the cost of managing waste and recycling in Minnesota.

2022 report

Report on 2022 SCORE programs – An interactive tool shows 2022 data on Minnesota's waste management programs.

Key findings:

  • In 2022, Minnesota posted a combined recycling rate of 45.2%, which is the highest rate in the history of the SCORE program.
  • Municipal solid waste tonnage increased by 3.7%.
  • Minnesota counties reported 31,857 tons of reuse in 2022. Tracking reuse separately from recycling allows the MPCA to represent environmental benefits from waste management decisions more accurately.
  • Minnesota saved about the equivalent of 4.57 million metric tons of carbon dioxide due to waste management practices, which is roughly the annual emissions of 970,000 passenger vehicles. Reducing, reusing, or recycling waste reduces greenhouse gas emissions, while landfilling increases them.

Learn more:

Check the Legislative Reference Library's collection for older SCORE reports.

Solid waste plans

Extensive work goes into planning for solid waste management around the state. The MPCA prepares the Metropolitan Solid Waste Management Policy Plan every six years with input from state agencies, county staff, and other stakeholders. Counties and solid waste management districts outside the seven-county metro area prepare and implement detailed solid waste management plans every 10 years. The MPCA also assists local government to implement the plans, develop projects for waste prevention and resource conservation, and measure their impact.

The plans describe the volume and composition of waste collected; reuse, recycling, organics, and household hazardous waste management; the facilities used for collection and disposal; waste reduction goals; and more. Learn more:

Waste characterization

The MPCA commissioned a study in 2013 to determine what Minnesotans were putting in the trash. The data is useful for identifying opportunities to divert materials through prevention, reuse, recycling, and composting.

The study pinpointed areas for improvement:

  • food waste (519,400 tons) — could be composted
  • mixed recyclable paper (285,400 tons) — could be recycled
  • bag and film plastic (192,600 tons) — could be recycled
  • wood waste (168,000 tons) — could be diverted
  • beverage containers made of aluminum (12,000 tons) and PET plastic (23,000 tons) — could be recycled

Waste collection systems

An MPCA study compared open and organized collection systems for residential waste and recycling in 50 Minnesota cities with populations greater than 10,000. Open collection systems mean residents select and hire their own garbage haulers, while in organized collection, the hauling is managed by local government.

The study compared the collection systems based on collection cost, scope of services, environmental and infrastructure impacts, efficiency and effectiveness, and specific MPCA goals such as fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Recycling and waste infrastructure

An MPCA report assessed Minnesota’s recycling and mixed municipal solid waste infrastructure in the context of the state’s needs, and analyzed Minnesota’s recycled materials and markets. The report also summarizes the county institutional arrangements supporting multi-county cooperation.

Hazardous waste

Minnesota solid waste and landfills can also be a source of pollution when toxic chemicals and products containing them are disposed of. Many consumer products contain the same chemicals as strictly regulated industrial wastes and pose similar environmental and health problems. Minnesota counties administer household hazardous waste programs to help prevent toxic chemicals from getting into the environment and harming human health.

Commercial entities that produce any amount of hazardous waste are regulated by the MPCA as hazardous-waste generators.

More information