Recycling Collection Study

A comparative analysis of applied recycling collection methods in Saint Paul (May 2002)

Download the report and supporting materials from the Eureka Recycling web site.

Eureka Recycling
624 Selby Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55104

Eureka Recycling

Recycling collection Improving recycling efficiency, increasing collection

In January 2001, Saint Paul's recycling program coordinator, Eureka Recycling, began a 14-month study to determine the best method for Saint Paul to increase recovery of materials and to improve recycling efficiency. They compared five recycling collection methods, which varied by collection frequency, type of containers used, types of materials collected, and how materials were separated.

Other local governments may find the study's data useful for their own operations, particularly if the demographic of their constituents is similar to the group participating in the Saint Paul study.

  • The final report includes a discussion of the study methodology and examples of the educational materials used to promote the collection methods to residents and inform them of the changes to their recycling program.
  • Detailed results are also reported, such as the quantities of materials collected compared to a control group, the costs of collection and processing, and discussions of the marketability of the collected material.
  • Eureka conducted a survey of the participating residents as part of the feasibility assessment, which may be helpful to other local governments when they consider collection convenience and residents' willingness to pay for recycling service. The report also discusses the residual rates of different collection and processing methods.

Study details

Collection methods

Eureka studied five collection methods:

  1. bi-weekly collection of two-stream commingled materials (paper and containers) using 18-gallon bins
  2. bi-weekly collection of two-stream commingled materials (paper and containers) using 35-gallon carts
  3. weekly collection of two-stream commingled materials (paper and containers) using 18-gallon bins
  4. weekly collection of two-stream commingled materials (paper and containers) plus organics using 18-gallon bins for recyclables and 35-gallon carts for organics
  5. bi-weekly collection of single stream materials using 64-gallon carts

Eureka also analyzed the feasibility of adding plastic bottles to its current program.


Eureka's final recommendation for the City of Saint Paul is to convert from their current bi-weekly source-separated system to a weekly two-stream commingled program using 18-gallon bins and to add plastic bottles to their curbside collection. The study also found that collecting organics is feasible and recommended that Saint Paul conduct additional research into curbside organics pickup.

Overall, the study demonstrated that by carefully implementing important changes in what and how Saint Paul recycles, Eureka Recycling can control costs, improve convenience and divert 74% of the discards that households generate through composting and recycling.


This study was funded, in part, by a FY2000 Environmental Assistance grant to Eureka Recycling. The project supports the state's environmental goal of promoting innovative collection and recycling programs that are efficient, cost-effective, and improve the marketability of materials.

Look at the online database of past Environmental Assistance grants.


Resource Conservation: Tools for Local Government Recycling Programs (U.S. EPA)
U.S. EPA has assembled a tool kit of resources local governments and community leaders seeking to create or maintain a residential recycling program. Featured topics include collection efficiency, reducing processing costs, and contracting.

Collection efficiency means getting more for less-picking up more solid waste or recyclables using fewer trucks or fewer people or less time. The collection efficiency strategies described in these publications can have dramatic impacts on the cost-effectiveness and quality of service delivery.

Collection Efficiency: Strategies for Success, U.S. EPA (Dec. 1999)

Getting More for Less: Improving Collection Efficiency, U.S. EPA (Nov. 1999)