Improving Recycling in Minnesota


A well-designed Beverage Container Refunds Program can decrease the environmental impact of single-use containers and improve container recycling, without negative impacts to recycling for other materials. Under a Bottle Deposit Program, a significant percentage of beverage containers will still be recycled through curbside recycling. Thus, the Program must ensure that the existing recycling infrastructure in MN can evolve and improve with the introduction of time and investments. It is not an either-or scenario: to truly scale up recycling rates, we need both effective curbside programs and bottle deposit policies.

Key Policy Components

  • MRF Container Processing Payment:
    Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) are currently built for a specific composition. Changing that infrastructure to better work within a Beverage Container Refund system takes investments and time. The Program must create and support a transition period that allows MRF’s to invest in upgrades so MRFs can adjust to this new business model thus ensuring that recycling, for all materials, remains viable, and recycling for containers improves. Additionally, MRFs will continue to receive and sort beverage containers and should receive a Container Processing Payment that is equal to the small container redemption value.
  • Strengthening Reuse Systems:
    Increasing capture rate and quality of recycled containers will have big environmental benefits, but reduction and reuse is even better. The Program has the opportunity to support and incentivize the development of reuse/refill systems. The Program should establish reusable/refillable beverage performance goals. Additionally, some of the funds generated by the program should be invested in reuse/refill infrastructure. Finally, these pieces will need to be supported with a strong “reuse” definition.
  • Circular Economy:
    Collection and capture rate are only one part of the equation for improved recycling. The program should support circularity by ensuring that there are strong markets for recycled content, which are currently extremely volatile based on the rise and fall of virgin prices. One way to do this is by adding minimum recycled content standards with rates and dates similar to California’s Program.
    Informal Workers:
    In Minnesota, savaging is criminalized at the local level. Ensuring fair and inclusive standards for informal workers that could be crucial players in a Recycling Refund Program must be a priority. State legislation should play a role in ensuring the decriminalization of scavenging for the covered materials at local levels.