(The Center Square) – Minnesota gets the bronze medal for the national competition for best waste management, according to a ranking LawnStarter published Tuesday.
The outdoor services website’s 2022’s Best States at Managing Waste report compared each state, along with the District of Columbia, based on waste-reducing policies and infrastructure and weighed those factors against indicators of the results of those policies, such as the amount of refuse that was landfilled or reused.
The North Star State ranked fourth-best in policies and 11th in the facilities and waste categories, while its neighbor Iowa enjoyed successes in facilities (8th) and waste (7th). It was 12th best in recycling. Overall, Iowa placed seventh and Wisconsin placed eighth.
While Minnesota and Iowa have mandatory recycling laws, plastic bag bans and yard debris bans, only Minnesota has an electronic waste recycling program. Minnesota, however, does not have beverage container deposit laws while Iowa does. Minnesota received partial credit for plastic bag bans.
LawnStarter Communications Manager Patricia David told The Center Square in an emailed statement Wednesday that states that earned 1 point for enacted plastic ban legislation, like Iowa and Minnesota did, have preemption of local government action.
Minnesota has more recycling facilities (.22) and fewer large waste facilities (2.42) per 100,000 residents compared with Iowa (.13, 5.04 respectively). Minnesota has 35 municipal solid waste landfills while Iowa has 48. The North Star State has 2,282.68 tons by state surface area while Iowa has 2,408.68 tons of waste in landfills by state surface area.
Minnesota has a slightly lower recycling rate for common containers and packaging materials (60% vs 62%) compared with Iowa. Minnesota recycles 45.29% of its production-related waste and manages .43% of it for energy recovery. Iowa, on the other hand, recycles 62.16% of its production-related waste and manages 2.46% of it for energy recovery.
Minnesota has 24 hazardous waste sites and 18 recyclers of hazardous waste while Iowa has 11 hazardous waste sites and eight recyclers of hazardous waste. Minnesota recycles nearly 60 times more tons of hazardous waste than Iowa does (36,311 tons vs 630 tons). Toxic chemicals release per square mile in Iowa is nearly triple that of Minnesota (712.75 vs. 257.99). Minnesota’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) score in 2019 (2,462,228) was lower than Iowa’s (3,213,414).
Minnesota has more clothing donation sites (100) – and more car junk yards (201) than Iowa does (65 and 132 respectively). The state ranked 33rd in LawnStarter’s state-by-state report on food waste management.
University of San Francisco Adjunct Professor Brad Drda said in the report that composting and being mindful of waste production is key for residents seeking to limit the waste. He advised avoiding buying items that come in packages, particularly plastic and plastic bags.
“Take responsibility for your own waste,” he said. “Look in your garbage can and let that guide your efforts. The heaviest portion for most people is probably food waste like coffee grounds and banana peels. Food waste sent to landfills turns into methane, a potent greenhouse gas.”
Alaska placed last, followed by Nevada and Montana, despite its achievement of the sixth best facilities and above average (19th) ranking in waste.
New England states Connecticut and Vermont placed first and second, respectively, while Maine took sixth place, despite ranking poorly for recycling hazardous and production-related waste.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said on its website that its combined recycling rate in 2019 (43.5%) was a 3.6% decrease from 2018, which it said likely stems from challenges in reporting and depressed recycling markets. There was a 17.8% decrease statewide in waste-to-energy (WTE), and the Great River Energy WTE facility shut down in January 2019, which decreased WTE up to 420,000 tons per year, it said.
The agency announced it October it has made about $1 million available for grants of up to $250,000 per project for local governments helping improve recycling and composting. Applications are due Jan. 11, 2022.