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New policy would require sustainability improvements at local farmers’ markets

The Green to Go ordinance guides city organics and recycling policies.
Image by Harry Steffenhagen
Illustrated by Harry Steffenhagen

A proposed city policy aims to boost sustainability at local farmers’ markets. 

On Friday, Ward 12 City Council member Andrew Johnson will introduce an amendment to the city’s Green to Go ordinance to require farmers markets to provide recycling and organics collection bins. While some markets have already opted to implement these bins, doing so is not required.

“[It] will put the onus on the event food sponsor or the market manager to provide that type of collections because previously we weren’t able to enforce anything like that,” said Adam Kalahar, a health inspector for the City of Minneapolis.

The Green to Go ordinance dictates acceptable packaging for businesses in the city, requiring most packaging to be recyclable or compostable. Businesses must also provide appropriate bins. 

Under the current ordinance, only individual market vendors have to have their own collection bins. With the proposed amendment, the responsibility would lie on the market managers to install bins for the food market as a whole, Kalahar said.

For some Minneapolis market managers, recycling and organics collection bins were already a norm. 

“When I set up the market, I already put out a composting, recycling and trash bin,” said Sarah Holle, market manager for the Dinkytown Farmers Market. “We also don’t produce much waste at all.”

The Dinkytown Farmers Market uses the space at the University Lutheran Church of Hope parking lot. Holle said the market is fortunate to use the space because the church already has some recycling and organics infrastructure in place.

The University of Minnesota Farmers Market also has already implemented recycling and organics collection bins market-wide in accordance with a University sustainability campaign, said Elizabeth Logas-Lindstrom, the University’s recycling coordinator. 

Nearly 39 percent of waste on campus was recycled or composted in 2018, according to the University’s facilities management.

“There is already a lot more familiarity on campus around organics and how to use it,” Logas-Lindstrom said. “One vendor couldn’t sell all their green peppers so they put them in the organics bins.”

Shifting the focus away from solely consumer responsibility to enforceable business infrastructure changes helps the city reduce waste on a larger scale, Kalahar and Holle said.

“I think we are ahead, but also behind some cities in terms of our composting,” Holle said. “A lot of focus is on the consumer to take care of their waste when in reality, we should be using materials that aren’t going in the trash to begin with and companies should be held accountable for that.”

Natalie Rademacher contributed to this report.

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