Another way to go green on St. Patrick’s Day

A new report showing impressive energy savings and environmental improvement by recycling rather than burying beverage containers and paper products in landfills has prompted the launch of three public campaigns to urge Minnesotans to do better than merely throwing stuff away.    

One of those campaigns, by Green Guardian, will play on the upcoming Irish day of frivolity with the theme “Kiss Me I Recycle.”  The ads will appear in MinnPost and other on-line media through Monday.

“We want people to know there’s another way to be green on St. Patrick’s Day,” said Angie Timmons of the Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board that runs the Green Guardian program with six metro counties and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

“Recycling is easy and it makes a big difference,” Timmons said.  

How big is underscored by the MPCA in a report (PDF) it delivered this week of the Legislature. 

“If we’d recycle just half of recyclable waste,” said the MPCA’s Mark Rust, “we would save 19 trillion BTUs, enough to heat 163,000 homes.  It would also keep enough carbon emissions out of the air to equal taking 400,000 cars off the road.”  MPCA estimates that 41 percent of solid waste is recycled in the state.

MPCA is in the process of launching its own state-wide campaign, “Recycle MORE MN” that features a website with consumer recycling tips but will also include billboards and movie theater ads and other outreach centered on Earth Day, April 22. 

MPCA has also given a $26,000 grant to the Recycling Association of Minnesota to help underwrite a pilot recycling-container program in St. Cloud, Hutchinson and Mankato. 

Recycling telephone directories

As director of MPCA’s Prevention and Assistance Division, it’s been Kathy Moeger’s job to coordinate a months-long series of meetings with stakeholders to help guide preparation of its legislative report. The MPCA will take the next several months to develop comprehensive legislation dealing with ways to improve the re-use of stuff that’s routinely thrown away. 

As a dust-up to what’s in store, a bill currently is moving in the Legislature that would put more teeth into a state law requiring the recycling of telephone and other directories. MPCA says that only 15 percent of the 13,000 tons of directories annually distributed in the state are recycled, and because of lax compliance by manufacturers the cost of disposing all that paper has been borne by local governments.   

Among its provisions, the legislation would give consumers the right to “opt out” of receiving directories with a registration modeled after the current “do not call” list for unwanted phone calls. 

The primary target for Green Guardian’s Irish ad campaign is beverage containers, only 52 percent of which are recycled in Minnesota.  That compares with a 61 percent in California and 97 percent in Michigan. 

According to Green Guardian, recycling a single aluminum can saves enough energy to power a TV or computer for three hours, and recycling one glass jar saves enough electricity to light an 11-watt compact fluorescent bulb for 20 hours.

MPCA says it would like to see 80 percent of the beverage containers recycled, especially aluminum that is very energy intensive to make and difficult to deal with in landfills. 

In fact, of the 19 trillion BTU savings that MPCA says it hopes to realize with improved recycling, half of that would come from reusing the aluminum in cans. 

The MPCA report supports a larger effort by the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG) that was appointed last April by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to identify ways to meet aggressive carbon-reduction goals in the Next Generation Energy Act approved last year by the Legislature. 

In its preliminary report, MCCAG identified source reduction, composting and recycling as one of the top ways that Minnesota can reduce carbon emissions linked to climate change.

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