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Member spotlight: City of Minneapolis Solid Waste & Recycling

2022-06-30 7:17 AM | Reuse Minnesota (Administrator)

Member spotlight: City of Minneapolis Solid Waste & Recycling
Q&A with Claire Pardubsky, Minnesota GreenCorps member, serving with the City of Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling

Click here for video of the interview.

RM | Describe what the role of the City of Minneapolis Solid Waste & Recycling department is, and how reuse fits into it.

Our office's primary role is as a waste hauler and most of our staff are out in the field collecting trash, recycling, and organics from Minneapolis homes. In addition, we provide community education and outreach and we spend a lot of time answering questions about how to dispose of items that don't necessarily belong in your trash and your recycling carts. That is one place where we like to center reuse in our work.

When we're answering questions on the phone or on our website, one of the first things that we list and recommend to folks is to reuse an item or two if it's usable to share it with friends, family or neighbors on various platforms to make sure items get used to their fullest capacity before being thrown away. Going forward, we're really excited to do more campaigning to promote the idea of "loving your stuff" as well as holding more swap events.

RM | Tell us about the recent garden tool swap event you planned.

One of our first swap events has been our garden tool swap, which we started in spring of 2021. We just held our second swap this spring of 2022, and both events have been a huge success with increasing participation this second year. The reason we started with garden tools is because so many folks really started backyard gardening and landscaping, and spending more time at home over the last couple of years and enjoying the space that they have. We wanted to make sure that as items start to get neglected by folks that don't have the time anymore, and maybe took on too much, or as more people start new backyard gardens, that all of those items get used to their fullest capacity. That's why we started with garden tools. So far it's been a huge success. The second year we held the swap at seven citywide parks, and it's been a blast.

RM | How does the swap work?

This year's swap took place for about three hours on a Saturday morning, and it was held at seven different parks across the city of Minneapolis. At each of those parks anywhere from 2 to 4 volunteers were present to help unload vehicles, tally items as they were dropped off or taken, and chat with participants about what their gardening plans were. Participants were welcomed to take or leave anything that they wanted. There was no limit on dropping off or taking items. You did not have to bring items to participate in the swap, and everything was free.

RM | What type of impact did your swap event have?

Over three hours we had over 330 participants. Over 2,200 items were dropped off and by the end of the morning more than 1,400 of those items were already taken and claimed by new homes. Even as we were wrapping up the event at each location, folks were walking up and claiming items and kind of perusing what was left over. Any leftover items were still reused. We had partnered with neighborhood organizations as well as on site volunteers and community members to make sure the items were reused to their fullest capacity. Anything that didn't get swapped in that three hour window was listed on a free exchange platform for neighbors to come grab. It was shared out at a local farmer's market. We also had some volunteers driving items around to local community gardens and sharing items that way. It was really motivating to see.

RM | What other reuse activities does the City of Minneapolis Solid Waste & Recycling support?

Another ongoing reuse activity that our office is really excited about is our Facebook group, which now has upwards of 800 members. Its primary purpose is to answer tricky recycling and organics questions. By posting those answers publicly where 800 plus people can see them, we help reduce confusion pretty efficiently. It's also served as a really effective platform to promote reuse. Often people will post an item, planning to throw it away, and someone else will suggest that they post it on a local free exchange website. It's really motivating to watch community members share our enthusiasm for reuse and often beat us to the punch on recommending that folks list items for reuse or find a secondary purpose for them before they throw items away.

RM | Why is it important to the City of Minneapolis Solid Waste & Recycling to be a Reuse Minnesota member?

Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling loves being a Reuse Minnesota member for a number of reasons. I think primarily among them, it's really grounding to connect with other organizations that want to center reuse in their work and are already doing really awesome work. It's really inspiring to see other opportunities for reuse across the state of Minnesota and draw inspiration from some of those organizations. I'm personally hoping that in the coming years our office has increasing bandwidth to promote reuse and hold more swap events. I have a long list of ideas from our time with Reuse Minnesota.

City of Minneapolis Solid Waste & Recycling

Reuse Minnesota was founded in 2012 and is a member-based nonprofit that supports repair, resale, and rental businesses, bringing visibility to the reuse sector as a means to lower our state's impact on the environment.

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