MPS Waste Audit Report
Andre Xiong
For a copy of this report or to access more information about waste management / recycling at MPS,
visit: http://mpsgoesgreen.mpls.k12.mn.us
School name and grade:
Today’s date:
Audit date:
Audit participants:
Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center k-8
Andre Xiong, Hennepin County Environmental Services
Regan Swedeen, Head Building Engineer
John Barlet, Building Engineer
Waste generated at your site in February, 2010:
 In February, your school produced 4,940 lb of waste.1
 Trash:
3,940 lb (80 %)
 Mixed recycling: 1,000 lb (20 %)
 Based on your school population of 582 (528 students, 54 staff), each
person in your school produced 8.5 pounds of waste during this
 It took approximately 6.5 dumpsters to haul your 3,940 lb of trash.3
 The waste you recycled in February will result in 1,000 less pounds of
material going to the incinerator as well as the production of new
materials. Making new products from recycled material is less
expensive and more environmentally friendly than making them from
raw materials.
MPS is now collecting
information about waste
and recycling rates by
school. The analysis
below is based on data
for the month which this
audit took place at your
site. To access weights
from other months,
please visit:
www.mpsgoesgreen.com and
click on ‘Green Reports’.
District cost of trash and recycling disposal for your site in February, 2010 6:
Monthly haul charge $1.90/yd
Processing fee rate
Processing fee based on weight
MN State tax
Hennepin Co. tax
Trash, actual
Total Cost
Mixed Recycling
had you not recycled
In February alone, your school diverted 1,000 lb of waste towards recycling; saving the district $26 in disposal
fees that would have incurred from adding that weight to the trash instead. These savings allow the district to
enhance its resource management strategy and offer programs like organics recycling and improved mixed
recycling. Increasing your recycling rates would yield even higher savings throughout the school year.
Included below are findings and recommendations based on the audit of your building’s
waste management practices.7
Organics Recycling:
You were not recycling organics in addition to mixed recycling.
Approximately 35% of a school building’s' waste is compostable. Recycling compostable waste saves the
district money from reduced hauling fees and taxes, helps the environment, and provides students an
educational, hands-on way to learn about environmental stewardship. If your school is interested in starting
an organics recycling program, there is an opportunity for additional schools to add an organics program in
Fall, 2010. Start-up costs will be covered by a grant. For information about how to launch an organics
recycling program at your school, please visit: http://mpsgoesgreen.mpls.k12.mn.us/Organics_Recycling.html
Recycling and waste reduction practices:
You [ were/were not ] stacking trays prior to disposal.
*not sufficient data*
Note: Trays, despite how little they weigh, take up massive volume and fill up trash bags quickly, requiring
them to be changed out frequently. Stacking trays to be disposed of separately will allow much more room
in the trash container for other waste items. This practice saves the district money from less bag usage,
reduces plastic in the environment, and allows more space in the trash dumpster(s).
You were collecting liquid waste in a separate container.
Congratulations. A great way to minimize the weight of your waste is to divert liquid waste down the drain.
Weight is one key basis that MPS’ hauler uses to charge the district for trash and recycling. In addition,
because MPS sends its trash to the incinerator, dry waste results in a more efficient burn which is better for the
MPS Goes Green signage were not observed.
We encourage you to use the signs to help standardize the district-wide MPS Goes Green message so students
and staff are exposed to the same message and practice in all MPS buildings. Remember that there are
informational signs in English, Spanish, Hmong and Somali available on the MPS website. Also, there are fun
‘What to Collect’ signs on the website that are appropriate for a K-8 audience.
You were not using custom-made educational materials in addition to MPS signage.
Members of your building community know what will work in your building. Encourage staff and students to
create their own promotional materials in addition to those provided by MPS. This involvement promotes
ownership and responsibility amongst students and staff which leads to a successful recycling program. Be
creative. On your signs, use examples of real items that students commonly run into at their school or create a
video or skits for a school assembly.
No surveyed classrooms displayed posters and labels to aid in sorting.
Posters and labels help students and staff comply with the recycling program. Teachers, take as little as a
minute of your time to post up signage by recycling containers to encourage recycling in the classroom.
Labeling containers and displaying recycling information reduces contamination in the recycling containers.
Minimal effort is required to post up educational materials yet has major positive effects. Please check the
MPS website for a variety of informational signs you can use in classrooms. Another step you can take is to
incorporate environmental sustainability information into coursework. The MPS Goes Green website provides
curriculum materials you may find useful.
You often used color coding to promote sorting.
Congratulations on using the MPS-designated colors (blue = mixed recycling, green = organics recycling,
red/gray = trash) to promoting recycling and proper sorting. Make sure to cover up any recycling labels on
containers that do not correspond with its designated use. (i.e. recycling sign on a red barrel). Contact your
Plant Operations Supervisor for stickers that can be used for this purpose.
Interior containers:
All classrooms sampled had recycling containers.
Congratulations on increasing recycling efforts throughout your school building. Classrooms generate large
amounts of paper waste. Managing paper through the recycling process is less expensive and more energy
efficient than throwing it away. Additionally, making new paper from recycled paper uses a lot less energy and
water than making new paper from trees.
You often provided both trash and recycling containers at the same location (in classrooms).
Congratulations, the practice of placing both trash and recycling containers near one another has been found
to increase recycling. Making recycling containers available wherever there are trash containers maximizes the
likelihood that recyclables will not simply be thrown away.
You were not bagging mixed recycling containers.
Congratulations on further reducing your school’s environmental impact by minimizing plastic bag use.
MPS’ waste hauler prefers recyclables un-bagged because the bags become a problem at the materials
recovery facility (MRF) where the recyclables are sorted and processed. At the MRF, in order to keep the
plastic bags from getting wrapped around the sorting equipment, they must be separated and disposed. The
plastic bags do not get recycled. Furthermore, the recyclables can easily be contained and transported through
the use of bins, dumpsters, and trucks. Keep up this environmentally friendly, cost effective practice.
Contamination assessment:
Number of sampled bags of trash: 1
The available sample had minimal contamination (paper).
It is great to see that your school is successfully diverting recyclables away from trash. Less recyclables in the
trash means less weight, thus reducing disposal fees for the district. Proper sorting also saves energy as more
recycling leads to less energy and resources required to make products from recycled materials.
Number of sampled bags of recycling: 2
Both samples had minimal contamination.
Your recycling stream was essentially free of trash! This means that the contents of your recycling dumpster
will be used to make quality recycled products. When you have excessive contamination in your recycling it
could mean that the hauler will reject your entire load to the trash. It is very important that your school
community continues to keep the recycling stream as good of quality as possible. If you would like more
clarification on whether or not certain items are recyclable, please contact me.
Exterior dumpsters:
Your dumpsters were labeled.
Congratulations for labeling the different dumpsters to distinguish what waste type goes in them, ensuring
that trash and recyclables are disposed of properly.
Waste were correctly disposed of in their corresponding dumpster.
Congratulations on completing the process by correctly placing waste in their proper dumpsters.
Your dumpsters were effectively arranged to best encourage recycling.
Your school has made it convenient to dispose of recyclables by placing the recycling dumpsters closer, thereby
reducing chances of it being disposed of in the trash dumpster. If your school is participating in organics, it is
especially important to put that dumpster close due to the heavy weight of those bags.
Your trash dumpster [ 6 yd3, picked up 5x weekly ] is typically full at pick-up.
Congratulations for choosing an appropriately sized trash dumpster, though it is rather big. Keep in mind there
should be a decrease in trash as a result of the district’s revitalized recycling program. As recycling improves at
your school, make note of reduced trash production and request a smaller dumpster as necessary. Many MPS
schools experience significant trash reduction through organics recycling. Please consider it for your site and
contact your Plant Operations supervisor on how to get started.
Your mixed recycling dumpster [ 4 yd3, picked up 1x weekly ] is typically full at pick-up.
Congratulations for filling your mixed recycling dumpster beyond its capacity. Increasing capacity or service
frequency is perfectly fine if your school’s recycling efforts have improved that much.
Summary of Recommendations
-Incorporating organics recycling will significantly reduce trash by diverting food waste (including the countless
milk cartons and now compostable trays) into its own dumpster to be converted into compost rather than
buried or incinerated as trash.
-Establish a school-wide set-up that best promotes recycling in classrooms:
-Post up signs/posters by containers to differentiate recycling from trash.
-Position trash and recycling containers together to promote sorting.
-Place containers in prominent locations, such as by doors or teachers’ desks, rather than scattered
-Limit the amount of containers in class rooms—one recycling and one trash should suffice.
If your school needs to modify its hauling schedule / dumpster size or access additional materials to make your
waste management/recycling program successful, please contact your Plant Operations Supervisor. For
questions regarding the audit and audit report, please contact Andre Xiong.
Andre Xiong
MN GreenCorps School Waste Prevention Specialist
Hennepin County Dept. of Environmental Services
417 N. 5th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401
phone: 612-543-1316
email: andre.x.xiong@co.hennepin.mn.us
Appendix / Sources
1 Monthly waste generation data was provided by MPS contract hauler, Allied Waste Services. Data on
dumpster sizes and hauling schedules were also obtained from Allied.
2 Student enrollment numbers were obtained through MPS student account, available to the public online.
Staff enrollment numbers were obtained through payroll.
3 Allied Waste estimates one cubic yard of trash weighs approximately 100 lbs.
4 Ginny Black, from MN Pollution Control Agency, estimates approximately 50% of organic waste remains as
finished compost after decomposition.
5 It was decided upon to use 32% as the figure for organic waste composition of total waste generated at
schools. The study was conducted in southern California by California Integrated Waste Management Board
for 2002.
6 Calculations:
Monthly haul charge = [ $1.90 X dumpster size (yd 3) X frequency of pickup in a week ] X 4 weeks (month)
Processing fee = processing rate X weight (tons)
Total cost = monthly haul charge + processing fee + tax
Savings incurred from recycling = total cost (gross weight) ▬ total cost (trash weight)
7 Audit procedures:
o Audits were scheduled for 1 hour and included:
1. Interview with head building engineer 2. Interior walkthrough
3. Contamination assessment
4. Exterior walkthrough
o Audits were conducted by Hennepin County Environmental Services’ GreenCorps member; alongside an
Allied Waste representative and the Plant Ops supervisor for that site.
o Questions during audit were answered based on head engineers’ observations and perceptions.
o Walk-through portion of audit consisted of observing (as needed):
2 hallways (or other common areas)
3 classrooms
1 bathroom
o Contamination assessment portion of audit consisted of visually assessing:
2 bags of trash
2 bags of mixed recycling
2 bags of organic waste
8 Not all schools were able to supply samples for contamination assessment due to various reasons. In such
cases, samples were attained in these other manners (where possible):
Observing bags already disposed of in dumpsters
Observing un-bagged waste in dumpsters equivalent to bag
Observing active containers on the floor
Clarification on contaminants:
Non-recyclable paper include: food-soiled paper, napkins, paperware, milk cartons.
Non-recyclable plastics include: shrinkwrap, plasticware, food containers.
Cardboard is allowed in single stream collection, so it is categorized with ‘paper’ for our purposes.
Food waste is only considered a contaminant in trash where organics recycling is in place.