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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.

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.

2021 report

Report on 2021 SCORE programs – An interactive tool shows 2021 data on Minnesota's waste management programs.

Key findings:

  • In 2021, Minnesota posted a combined recycling rate of 42.2%, a decrease of 1.9% from 2020.
  • Municipal solid waste tonnage increased by 1.4%.
  • Minnesota counties were able to report material reuse (4,082 tons) for the first time in 2021. Tracking reuse separately from recycling allows the MPCA to represent environmental benefits from waste management decisions more accurately.
  • Minnesota saved about the equivalent of 4.25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide due to waste management practices, which is roughly the annual emissions of 902,000 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 policy report

Every four years, the MPCA issues a solid waste policy report that analyzes the state's sustainable materials management system and recommends policies, system improvements, and further research. The report describes how much solid waste is generated in Minnesota and how it's collected, processed, and disposed of. It also looks at waste prevention, reuse, recycling, and recovery efforts and the facilities used to manage waste.

Visit the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library to find previous solid waste policy 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