The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 11, 2014

Recycling bill has business mandate

Rep. Clark Johnson is House author

ST. PAUL — Reycling has hit something of a plateau in Minnesota, said. Rep.Clark Johnson. Curb-side residential pickup is the norm, though if the metro area’s lofty 75 percent recycling goals are to be met, the commercial sector will have to do more.

Johnson, a North Mankato Democrat, is behind the Legislature’s latest effort to encourage recycling.

As it was introduced, the bill was limited to state agencies, setting a firm 60 percent recycling standard, he said. State entities that don’t hit that mark would be required to make a plan to improve.

But the bill’s scope expanded in a committee, which added a recycling requirement for all metro-area commercial buildings that generate at least 4 cubic yards per week in waste.

Johnson said the bill is limited to the metro because many outstate areas don’t have the same access to recycling services.

Still, grocers argued against it, Johnson said. The bill requires them to recycle at least three kinds of materials. However, considering they already recycle cardboard and plastic bags, “it’s not that onerous,” he said.

The bill, which was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton last week, takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

In early April, a similar recycling provision was explicitly removed from a spending bill by Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, on a 79-51 House vote. That provision affected the whole state, though Torkelson said he’s similarly uncomfortable with the metro-only version.

“We’re mandating more and more on our businesses, whether it’s appropriate or not,” he said. “I’m not against recycling. If it makes sense more businesses will do it in the way that makes sense for their business.”

About half of the state’s waste is generated by commercial entities, said Kirk Koudelka, assistant commissioner of legislative affairs, land and solid waste policy for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The bill will help take a significant step toward meeting the metro area’s 75 percent solid waste recycling goals by 2030, he said.

“This will help folks recycle where they shop and eat and work,” he said.

The bill also bans the recycling of needles and syringes. Even if people pack them in other containers, some of them eventually break out and injure recycling workers, Koudelka said.

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