Sunday, December 18, 2016

It's one of those below zero days and too cold to go outside.  Put a pizza in the oven, make some soup, but definitely don't plan on stepping foot outside.  Ok, I did open one door and stuck my hand outside to confirm what the weather channel predicted....and they got it right.  So, I'll use this morning to write about something trash related that has been bugging me.  If you live or work in downtown Minneapolis, you notice all the new apartment buildings going up.  That's a lot of people moving into downtown and a lot of trash to pick up.  The City of Minneapolis only picks up trash for apartment buildings that are 4 units and smaller.  If you live in a single family home or smaller building the city picks up your trash, provides one sort recycling, and organic recycling.  One sort recycling...that means you don't even have to sort out glass, cans and paper into different containers.  Simple.  Plus there is an extra bin for organics.  That group of residents should all be getting an A+ on their recycling efforts.  They are given all the tools they need to be successful recyclers.  But wait, according to the latest addition of the Green Digest by Nate Gotlieb in the Journal, the news isn't all that positive.  A study that was done last May by HERC (Hennepin Energy Recovery Center) shows that many folks are not doing their part and at this rate we will not meet our state-imposed recycling goals by 2030.  In the study, the city dug through garbage from three different neighborhoods and weighed and measured and categorized all that trash. What a fun day that must have been.  Ok, read about it here if you care to find out the details.
Now back to those of us who live in downtown apartments with more than 4 units.  That's a lot of folks and more apartment units are going up like crazy.  We rely on our apartment owners and managers to contract out with trash haulers and provide us with recycling. The hauler that my building uses does not provide organic recycling.  I know because I called them.  I think I should be offered that and I hope the city will remedy that soon.  If I wanted to walk to the nearest city organic recycling site it would be about 4 miles round trip and I'm just not going to do that.  But according to city ordinance (Article VI 225.780), all apartment building owners are required to provide their tenants with the opportunity to recycle.  I'm sure most apartments these days do that.   But there are also other measures that apartment owners are required to do:
  1. Recycling containers conveniently located on the premises of each property
  2. Adequate container volume for recycling collected by tenants of the property
  3. Written recycling educational materials provided from the hauler to the tenants annually that includes the following information:
  • Materials that can be recycled in the hauler’s recycling program
  • How to prepare materials to meet recycling requirements
  • How to properly dispose of hazardous waste including drop-off locations, hours of operation and contact information.
Now as far as my own building is concerned, the recycling container is not exactly convenient, but it is probably the only choice.  The volume of the container is adequate, but number three on the list is what is lacking.  I never received any information on recycling at move-in or on an annual basis thereafter.  This information is supposed to be provided by the trash hauler to be distributed to tenants. And it is education that gets folks to participate and buy into recycling.  Not everyone has a clear idea of what can be recycled and that information changes every year.  It would be interesting to see a study of my apartment building's trash and find out just how we do compared to the neighborhoods from the May HERC study.  I wonder if any of the other large apartment complexes downtown provide their tenants with recycling information?

Friday, December 9, 2016

State of the River 2016 Report

I got up early this morning and went to a presentation of the State of the River 2016 report.  Presented by the Friends of the Mississippi River and the National Park Service's Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, it attempts to tell us how our river is doing.  The 75 or so folks who attended most likely came from city governments, people from the Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control and stormwater management groups, but some concerned citizens like me showed up too. Can I swim in the river?  The report has a nice map of impaired vs not impaired stretches of the river.  And by that I mean bacteria in the river that might make you (or your pet) sick.  In the downtown area, it would be best to head to the gorge area or just get out of the city entirely.  The river down by Inver Grove Heights and Hastings is fine or head over to Stillwater and swim in the St.Croix.  Various charts in their report show feedlot runoff to be the biggest culprit, but human septic systems and pet waste play a role too.  Other folks may want to know about fishing and eating what you have caught.  I'm not supposed to tell, but the fishing is supposed to be really good just below the Coon Rapids Dam. The report touched on indicators of river health such as native river mussel population, the status of invasive carp, and bald eagle populations.  While there are many positive things, there were things that stuck in my mind after I left the meeting.
  • Minnesota is responsible for about 6% of the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone problem.  That is the area in the gulf that is so deprived of oxygen that fish cannot live in it.  Hmm, The Dead Zone, sounds like a  good name for a head banger band.
  • In 300 years Lake Pepin will disappear due to sediment buildup coming in from the Minnesota River and even by the end of this century it will be greatly changed.  So, if you have a 5 year old take them over there now, get a photo, and tell them to return in 2095 and see the difference.
  • We dump too much salt on the roads here in the winter.  One teaspoon of salt is enough to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water.  We do not have the technology to get it out once it runs off the roads, into storm drains and finally into the river.
  • We are just beginning to find out what microplastics and microfibers can do to our health.  They are in the river and they are now in you.  Maybe that's the reason you have a gut ache. You know that fuzzy fleece jacket you love.  Every time you wash it, fibers go down the drain.  Well that just sucks!
  • We will never solve our clean water problem unless we get farmers on board and move some farm land into perennial cover crops.  For that to happen there must be markets for them to sell those products and make a living.
Well, sure there is more in the report. So, read it yourself if you are interested at
Finally as the meeting was closing, someone expressed their concern over President Elect Trump's pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency.  Yes, we will be hiring the fox to look after the hen house.  And on that depressing thought the moderator said something like....don't be depressed, choose to live bravely.  And so we must.