November 15 was America Recycles Day and Eliza Pessereau, Marielle Mateo, and Adriana Salse are doing their part to reduce waste and increase recycling. The three are members of MN GreenCorps, a program coordinated by the MPCA that places AmeriCorps members with organizations around the state to assist with environmental projects. Eliza, Marielle, and Adriana are serving at three separate sites in Minneapolis and have pooled their resources to reach tens of thousands of residents with their waste reduction message.
It started with Eliza at Minneapolis Public Schools’ (MPS) Culinary & Wellness Services department. MPS has been offering free meal boxes to support children who lost access to school meals as they transitioned to remote learning. Each week, families can pick up two boxes — one with seven breakfasts and seven lunches, and one with seven "super snacks," which each contain the nutrition equivalent of a third meal — for each child in the household. The program does not require registration and is available to all families with children, even those not attending Minneapolis Public Schools.
But while the boxes are a great way to feed people during the pandemic, “there’s just a lot more waste,” says Elisa. She teamed up with Marielle at Hennepin County and Adriana at the City of Minneapolis to use the boxes to deliver more than food.
They created a multilingual brochure that stresses the importance of waste reduction and includes resources for everything from appliance repair to organics recycling. “We also created a Google form asking people to pledge to reduce, reuse, and recycle.” People filling out the pledge choose two of five actions to take, such as talking to someone about America Recycles Day and taking inventory of your refrigerator to reduce food waste.
To motivate participation in the pledge, there will be a drawing for organics recycling starter kits provided by Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis.
Quick action also helped prevent the meal boxes themselves from going to waste. When box pick up numbers dropped to less than half the projected 7,500 boxes, Eliza and her colleagues at MPS talked to the media, and Eliza hit food shelves with flyers, talking to people in line to make sure they were aware of the resource. Now the program is handing out 13,500 boxes a week, each filled with food and lots of information for a healthier planet.
Expanding markets for recycled materials
The MPCA’s second round of recycling grants will be awarding up to $400,000. In this round, the grant has expanded to included Minnesota colleges and universities, as well as manufacturers. Funds can be used to upgrade technology that sorts and prepares recyclables for market. Preference will be given to projects that use materials identified as priorities — glass, mixed paper, organics, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and plastic film.
Applications due Jan. 8, 2021. Learn more on the grant page.