Counties prioritize recycling, trash management with the help of state's solid waste hierarchy.

Minnesota’s Hierarchy of Waste Management sets the solid waste management priorities for the state’s 87 counties.

In order of preference, waste reduction and reuse, recycling and composting, and energy recovery are the top of the hierarchy, while landfill disposal is at the bottom. The waste hierarchy helps guide planning, programming and investments for Ramsey and Washington counties. Both counties have invested at all levels.

Since 1997, Ramsey County has invested more than $100 million on actions supporting hierarchy levels of higher preference than using shredded trash to make electricity. In that same time, Washington County has invested more than $27 million on similar activities. In 2014, cities in Ramsey County spent more than $10 million on recycling services for their residents.

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Allocation of time, money, and program resources are directed respectively by the Ramsey County and Washington County Solid Waste Master Plans, which are revised and updated every six years. Since the early 1980s, these plans have adapted to changes in solid waste management strategies, from being a system dependent on burying trash in landfills, to one that integrates a variety of management strategies and performs at one of the highest levels in the nation. The master plans have come to be respected as setting clear policy direction for solid waste management and provide a level of stability to a very dynamic system.

Important things to note:

  • Reducing risk to health and the environment is a key goal of our solid waste management system.
  • Our solid waste management system is planned and deliberately developed to meet the state's goals.
  • Recycling is important to our East Metro economy. In Ramsey County alone, for example, there are at least 1,050 recycling jobs directly associated with recycling markets, and an another 6,400 jobs indirectly associated with recycling markets. The total gross economic activity from recycling in Ramsey County is estimated to be $4.95 billion each year.  
  • In our solid waste management system, it all starts with the waste generator. Residents and businesses are paying East Metro trash haulers about $119 million annually to collect their trash. Trash collection companies  support more than 500 local jobs. 
  • Solid waste management is a necessary government function, as it helps protect public health and the environment. State and local governments in Minnesota have supported a trash collection and recycling marketplace in which private industry competes to provide this necessary service.
  • In the East Metro area, the private sector controls most of the solid waste stream, and makes most of the decisions related to the fate of waste. For more than two decades, a tension has existed between public sector interests and private sector interests in response to the solid waste management system envisioned by the state’s Waste Management Act.