Since the early 1970s, the State of Minnesota and all 87 Counties have been responsible for managing our solid waste. This has resulted in the development of integrated solid waste management systems that include waste reduction and recycling programs, composting and waste-to-energy facilities, household hazardous waste programs, and numerous other services that you use every day. These efforts have dramatically improved Minnesota’s solid waste management practices! Waste management practices that used to be little more than open burning dump sites in the 1960s have now changed into an integrated system that recycles more and landfills less waste than most other states. As a component of integrated solid waste management, comprehensive recycling programs have been implemented by all Minnesota counties, thus providing their communities with several important benefits.
Recycling conserves natural resources
As we increase our consumption of disposable products, limited reserves of natural resources are being depleted. The extraction, transportation, and processing of virgin raw material is very energy-intensive, and in many cases it results in environmental degradation to land, water, air, and ecosystems. On the other hand, using recycled materials to manufacture new products conserves natural resources and saves energy, thus helping to limit these negative environmental impacts.
Recycling saves disposal capacity
As Minnesota’s population (and waste generation rates) have increased over the years, recycling and waste reduction have helped to minimize the overall amount of trash that needs to be buried or burned, thus decreasing the need to build expensive new landfills and incinerators.
While new landfills are very expensive to build, we will still need to do that when our existing landfills finally run out of space. Building new landfills is very unpopular, as most people tend to fight against having a new landfill built in or near their own community. Increased recycling will postpone the need for new landfills.
Recycling is preferable to land disposal
Landfills are the least preferred waste management method on the Minnesota’s waste management hierarchy, since they use up a commodity that cannot be reproduced (LAND) and they can lead to contamination of our groundwater resources. The state has worked diligently to clean up old leaking landfills, and to prevent new facilities from polluting air, soil, and ground water through better monitoring and engineering. However, such protective efforts are expensive. Successful waste reduction techniques like recycling can reduce the need for new landfills.