Tag Archives: recycling

Recycling and the China connection

IMG_6113My recycling is staying right in Minnesota.

CORRECTION 6//19/18 – Eureka has not shipped to China since 2013.

After a friend pointed me to a New York Times article saying that recycling is going into landfills, because China has closed the door on U.S. garbage imports, I double-checked. Yes—Minneapolis and St. Paul recycling still stays mostly in Minnesota. Eureka Recycling, our non-profit recycling provider, does not ship our paper, plastic, or anything else to China, and has not done so since 2013.

“About 80% of our materials are sold to markets in MN, 90% in the upper Midwest, 100% in North America,” reports Lynn Hoffman, co-president of Eureka. She adds that they are still impacted by China’s import ban, because flooding of U.S. recycling markets has driven prices down.

According to the NYT article, roughly one-third of the 66 million tons of material recycled in the United States each year is shipped overseas. China was the largest importer of U.S. recyclables, and accepted about half of the entire world’s exports of recyclables. Last year, China announced that it would no longer be “the world’s garbage dump,” and it stopped importing almost all recyclables on January 1, 2018.

“We have been outsourcing impacts of our consumption in our trash,” says Hoffman, and the change could be a good thing for the recycling industry. She hopes for investments in U.S. recycling infrastructure to “create good quality material with high value.” The change, she says, could be a good thing for the industry.

On the other hand, there’s a danger that recycling imports will simply shift to other countries, such as India, where standards and regulations are lower. That would perpetuate the problem of dumping our garbage on other people

“We’re not opposed to shipping overseas on principle,” Hoffman says. The problem is that, “in those markets, it can be harder to track your material and know what’s happening to it. Transparency is a big deal for us, and that leads us to markets that are closer to home.”

She says the global shake-up could be an opportunity to rebuild in a way that’s great for recycling, and great for our communities. Investment in recycling infrastructure doesn’t come cheap, but, she says, “It’s always less expensive than trash,” especially if you consider the hidden costs of landfilling to human health, water, and cleaning up spills.

Want to know more about where your recycling goes? Check these out:

CORRECTION 6//19/18 – Eureka has not shipped to China since 2013. The article originally said Eureka had never shipped to China, but Eureka has informed me that it did ship some materials to China prior to 2013. Lynn Hoffman clarified in an email: 

“We’re not fundamentally opposed to sending material to China or any other export market – as this is a global commodity industry. We have prioritized local markets as much as possible over the years because it results in more environmental benefit (less transportation) and more local economic benefit.”

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St. Paul picks Eureka: Now let’s talk organics recycling


picking up recycling

Photo courtesy of Eureka Recycling

Eureka Recycling will continue as St. Paul’s recycling provider, the city announced June 24. That’s a big win for all of us in the city, as well as for the non-profit Eureka Recycling. After a lengthy contract process, the city rejected bids by the nation’s two biggest trash-and-recycling companies. So what comes next? Continue reading

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Recycling ride-along in St. Paul

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 6.45.12 PMLike Twins players, Eureka drivers star on trading cards. The back of Kirk Frauenhelm’s card reveals that he’s an avid gardener, has been driving for Eureka since 2010 and has picked up almost 10 million pounds of recycling. That’s an old card, so he’s well over the 10-million-pound mark now. Luckner Clerveus started just last year, and boasts only a little more than a million pounds picked up. Continue reading

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Eureka Recycling: Pro-employee, pro-environment, local and responsible


Sorters at Eureka’s MRF – photo courtesy of Eureka

The Minneapolis Public Works Department has recommended a five-year contract with Eureka Recycling to process all of the city’s recycling. Next, it’s St. Paul’s turn to decide between the local non-profit and the biggest private companies in North America for pick-up and processing. Choosing Eureka makes sense from both economic and environmental perspectives. Continue reading


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Ear plugs in: This is what recycling looks like


The finished product from the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF): bales of paper, plastic, cans. 

It’s noisy in here. Crashing, clashing, grinding, headache-inducing noisy — and that’s with earplugs in. Not only earplugs: for this visit to Eureka’s Materials Recycling Facility (MRF), I’m also outfitted with a safety vest, plastic goggles, and protective hard hat. Watching a big, yellow front-end loader move across the floor toward us, I’m glad that I also have an earpiece and transmitter so I can follow the directions given by my guide, Lynn Hoffman, Eureka’s chief of community engagement. Continue reading

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For José Hernandez, recycling is more than a job

IMG_6114Outside the glass windows of the office, the incessant clatter and clashing of the Eureka Recycling‘s Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) continues nonstop. Inside, I extract the protective plugs from my ears, and sit down to talk to José Hernandez about his work at Eureka Recycling. Continue reading

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Plans, not resolutions: Walking, reading, writing ahead

IMG_5972I plan to walk more in January, despite icy sidewalks. I plan to read more and have a stack of poetry and novels and nonfiction to tackle. I plan to write more, too — on a variety of topics, personal and political, local and global. That includes recycling contracts in St. Paul, Glendale public housing in Minneapolis, solar greenhouses and winter gardens across Minnesota, and bad bus stops in my neighborhood. Continue reading

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Trash talking in the Twin Cities

Eureka Recycling graphic for St. Paul recycling

Eureka Recycling graphic for St. Paul recycling

People have lots of questions about recycling. Should you wash out beer bottles and jelly jars? Paper is good — but what about shredded paper? And what about light bulbs? Or window glass? What kind of plastic can you put in the blue box? And then there’s the big question: is recycling really worth it?

The Washington Post recently reported that recycling isn’t profitable any more. Whether recycling turns a profit is the wrong question. As a recent Mother Jones article points out, recycling succeeds financially if it just costs less than burying stuff in landfills. But financial success isn’t even half the story. Recycling succeeds by keeping trash out of landfills. Continue reading

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Weeds, compost and recycling in St. Paul

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After ten days of intensive garden work, I’ve finally beaten back the weeds that tried to take over while I was on vacation. Now I have piles of branches and boxes and buckets of weeds to dispose of. Packing weeds into the car and driving to the compost center seems perverse, and not very environmentally friendly. But it’s my best solution — despite years of trying, I haven’t devised a way to compost successfully at home. The nearby Ramsey County compost center offers both a place to dispose of weeds and branches (and kitchen waste) and a return load of wood chips for mulch. Continue reading

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