Years ago, it was common to toss trash and unwanted items in a dump, a ditch, or "out back" to burn it. Getting rid of our trash that way didn’t make it disappear, it accumulated to the point of contaminating the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we love.
At one time, Minnesota had more than 5,000 small dumps scattered throughout the state. In 1967 out of growing concern over pollution, the Legislature created the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to address the complex issue of pollution.
Beginning in the early 1970s, the state closed these hazardous dumps to protect human health and the state's air, land, and waters; and replaced them with permitted landfills. Today, we have 21 permitted landfills in Minnesota.
A new way of thinking about trash
As communities grew and expanded so did our waste dilemma. Where do you put something that nobody wants? Where do you put the millions of tons of household and industrial refuse and tons of hazardous waste?
In the 1980s, to address the growing waste problem, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Waste Management Act (WMA). It was a new and different way on how to manage all our waste. It was also complicated, controversial, and important piece of legislation. The new approach emphasized reducing, reusing, and recycling our waste rather than burying it or burning it.
Since the enactment of the Waste Management Act, Minnesota has made great strides in waste reduction and recycling — creating jobs and opportunities along the way.
Choose to reuse
Minnesota has an amazing network of reuse stores and online services. Visit ReuseMN.org to learn more.
Recycling is good for Minnesota's economy. It supports more than 37,000 jobs and adds nearly $8.5 billion to Minnesota's economy. Minnesotans are still throwing away more than 1 billion tons of recyclables with an estimated value of $285 million. No matter where you live or what you do, there are things you can do to recycle more.
And, remember, if you don’t make waste, you don’t have to worry what to do with it. So next time, stop and think, "Do I really need it?"