Minneapolis, MN

Reaching capacity: Resolving the metro's garbage crisis

Paula Carlsen


MINNEAPOLIS-SAINT PAUL, MN — The volume of waste dumped in metro landfills climbed by more than 30% last year, and if nothing is done, the Twin Cities' landfills will shortly run out of space.

Minnesota has yet to meet its objective of recycling 75% of its waste, and the state's capacity for processing organic waste remains stagnant.

However, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is working on both short and long-term solutions to the Twin Cities metropolitan area's expanding garbage challenges.

Metropolitan Solid Waste Management Policy Plan

The MPCA collaborates with local governments, companies, and community partners every six years to establish a solid waste management plan for the seven-county metro area.

A new 18-month process will begin soon and conclude in December 2022 with the adoption of a plan by the MPCA commissioner.

This is a crucial chance for the area to engage in innovative and long-term solutions to our solid waste concerns, ranging from addressing the current landfill capacity bottleneck to meeting the recycling target and increasing organics capacity.

The MPCA organized two public workshops to solicit public feedback on solid waste concerns, which it will use to develop the first draft of the policy plan.

In the following months, the agency will provide its draft plan for more public discussion and input.

Metro Certificate of Need

As the volume of trash disposed of in Twin Cities landfills increased dramatically last year, the MPCA initiated the Certificate of Need procedure, allowing waste companies to seek approval for more capacity. Four metro facilities applied for expansion earlier this year:

  • Dem-Con Landfill (Shakopee)
  • Pine Bend Landfill (Inver Grove Heights)
  • Rich Valley Landfill (Inver Grove Heights)
  • Burnsville Sanitary Landfill (Burnsville)

On June 1, MPCA will reveal its plans for allocating capacity to the four facilities. Then, on June 16, there will be a virtual public meeting where anyone can raise questions and provide feedback on the preliminary proposal.

The agency will consider these views as it proceeds forward with the process.

Sanitary Landfill in Burnsville

Waste Management, which owns the Burnsville Sanitary Landfill, proposes to expand it by almost 23.6 million cubic yards, increasing the landfill's greatest height by 262 feet.

On June 1, the MPCA will publish a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) on the proposed expansion. The proposed project would modify and downsize the current footprint from 216 acres to 204 acres and allow the landfill 40 additional years to receive municipal rubbish.

On June 23, the agency will host a virtual public information meeting where residents can learn more about the planned project, ask questions, and comment. MPCA will gather public comments 60 days after DSEIS is published.

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