The city of White Bear Lake was presented a “City of Excellence Award” at the annual League of Minnesota Cities’ conference in Rochester last month in recognition of its Washington Square Waste Consolidation Project.

The downtown project is a successful shared recycling and organics collection program shared among 11 small businesses surrounding a city-owned parking lot. Not only does it beautify the area, but it reduces disposal costs and makes the city more sustainable, read the award. 

Tyler Conrad, owner of Goodthings, had been working since 2013 to mobilize nearby businesses to consolidate their waste services in an effort to clean up the area and cut garbage bills by increased recycling. 

After securing the interest of 11 businesses, Conrad worked with Minnesota Waste Wise, a non-profit associated with the MN Chamber of Commerce, to conduct a waste audit at each establishment to determine capacity needed. Waste Wise then worked on his behalf to request bids from haulers. Based on the low bid by Aspen Waste Systems, Waste Wise and Conrad then worked together to develop a pricing structure. 

The design and construction of the enclosure was led by the City. Staff then applied for a Ramsey County Public Entity Innovation Grant to cover the cost of design and construction of the enclosure, which was completed in November of 2015.  

Conrad then worked with Minnesota Waste Wise and participating businesses to apply for BizRecycling grants through Ramsey and Washington Counties; a total of eight grants were awarded amounting to $31,400. This funding was used to purchase color-coded recycling and organics bins, compostable bags, signage, tools to educate staff on recycling, and equipment for transporting waste to the enclosure.

The 11 businesses collaborating in this project are now composting 47 percent and recycling 18 percent of their waste by weight. Since implementation, an estimated 75,347 pounds of organic material that was previously thrown away has been collected in the organics recycling program. Twenty-four cubic yards of recyclables are now collected weekly, compared to the 18.3 cubic yards collected prior to the project’s start. This marks a 31 percent increase in the volume of recyclables collected, which is attributed to two businesses adding recycling programs, three businesses switching from cardboard-only to single stream recycling, and all businesses adding more bins, signage, and education to their programs. 

While waste services have fluctuated due to seasonality and the addition of the last few participants, the project is on track to save a collective amount of approximately $368 per month or $4,416 per year. Furthermore, six individual sets of waste containers have been eliminated from Washington Square, allowing for more attractive, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and the addition of outside seating at one restaurant where a dumpster previously stood.

From press release

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