Twin Cities metro is bulging with trash

A yellow landfill compactor drives over trash in a landfill.

We generate a lot of trash. In fact, collectively, we generate almost 3.3 million tons of waste in the Twin Cities each year. The amount of garbage going to our metro landfills has increased by more than 30% in just one year. At the current rate, those landfills are going to run out of space.

Our landfills are running out of space

Most of our garbage in the Twin Cities goes to two landfills: Pine Bend in Inver Grove Heights and the Burnsville Sanitary Landfill. If the MPCA does not expand landfill capacity, the waste would have to go to facilities in Greater Minnesota or out of state. The result would be higher costs for metro residents. It would also be worse for the environment because of the extra fuel burned to transport the waste.

Illustration showing bubbles of methane coming out of a landfill and going into the atmosphere. It says "Relying on landfills impacts our climate."

Growing landfills impact our climate

Expanding landfills is not a long-term solution for the metro. For every one ton of garbage that is thrown into a landfill, it generates 2.94 tons of greenhouse gases. In just one year, Twin Cities landfills generate greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 223,787 cars on metro roads.

MPCA is working on a better approach

The MPCA believes we need short and long-term solutions to the metro’s garbage challenges. The agency needs the public’s input to help develop and implement solutions that reduce waste and expand recycling and organics.

Help us plan how we manage solid waste

Help develop a new plan for managing our waste

The MPCA is updating our Metropolitan Solid Waste Policy Plan. It guides how we manage waste in the seven-county metro area. We need innovative solutions to continue to protect human health and the environment. We encourage you to share your insights for the next Metro Solid Waste Management Policy Plan.

Provide feedback on expanding metro landfills

It's becoming more difficult to manage waste in the metro area as its landfills fill up. In response, we started a process called a "certificate of need." It allows metro-area facilities to apply for new additional landfill capacity. Four facilities applied, and preliminary determinations of how additional capacity will be allocated were announced in early June. We don't take that decision lightly. We invite residents to provide comments and feedback about proposals for additional capacity.

On June 16 we hosted a virtual public information meeting where we presented the preliminary determinations and responded to questions and comments. A recording of the meeting can viewed from the Certificate of Need page.

Review the proposed expansion of the Burnsville Sanitary Landfill

The Burnsville Sanitary Landfill, an existing landfill in Burnsville, is proposing to expand by approximately 23.6 million cubic yards. This proposal requires preparation of an environmental review document called a “draft supplemental environmental impact statement" (DSEIS). The DSEIS identifies potential environmental impacts as part of the proposed project. We released a draft supplemental environmental impact statement for Burnsville Sanitary Landfill on June 1.

On June 23, we hosted a virtual public meeting where we presented the DSEIS, gathered public comments and responded to questions.

What can I do to help reduce the waste challenges facing our region?

Whether it's packaging, old clothes, broken items, or food scraps, everyone throws stuff away and contributes to the waste stream. Some estimates indicate that nearly 20% of what we throw away could be composted. That 20% matters, because not wasting food in the first place prevents 20 times more greenhouse gases than composting. Better yet, it prevents 700% more greenhouse gases than if the wasted food went into a landfill. There is a wide range of individual actions people can take to help reduce our dependence on landfills and waste to energy facilities.

Reduce and refuse

  • Buy durable goods that last longer instead of disposable items
  • Be a conscious consumer: can you rent an item rather than purchasing it? Consider the packaging involved in every purchase you make.
  • Be mindful when grocery shopping – purchase only what you can eat and eat leftovers instead of tossing them.

Reuse

  • Purchase used goods when possible and donate old items. Host a clothing or book swap party rather than throwing away old items
  • Repair items rather than throwing them away. Many people take advantage of online “how to” videos to restore old furniture, clothing, and other items.

Recycle

  • Recycle, recycle, recycle
  • Recycle organics, and compost food scraps, paper goods, and other compostables