Letter from the Chair

Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy, or R&E, is a partnership of Ramsey and Washington counties. Through waste reduction programming and responsible waste management, we work toward our vision of “vibrant, healthy communities without waste.”

As Board Chair, it is with great pleasure that I present the Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy (R&E) annual report for 2023. The achievements highlighted showcase our dedication to our core values of commitment, teamwork, respect, trust and innovation.

In 2023, we expanded our waste prevention efforts to move waste up the Minnesota waste hierarchy, which guides our work and prioritizes reduction, reuse and recycling. Notably, we launched and expanded the highly anticipated Food Scraps Pickup Program to 40,000 households, with rollout continuing over the next several years, and implemented cutting-edge technology at the R&E Center to support the program. Additionally, programs like mattress recycling, food waste prevention and BizRecycling moved hundreds of thousands of pounds of materials up the waste hierarchy. Our educational initiatives and facility tours have played a crucial role in fostering understanding of the counties’ responsible waste management practices, enhancing community engagement with our mission.

We extend our sincere gratitude to our partners and community members for their continued collaboration and commitment to creating healthy, vibrant communities. As we look to the future, we remain dedicated to advancing our mission and fostering partnerships that contribute to the sustainability and vitality of our communities.

Fran Miron

R&E Board Chair, Washington County Commissioner

About R&E

R&E is the organization through which Ramsey and Washington counties collaborate to responsibly manage waste. Through R&E, the counties strive to protect health and the environment and meet the state of Minnesota’s 75% recycling goal by 2030. R&E offers programs to help residents and businesses reduce waste and recycle better. R&E also manages the R&E Center, which processes trash from the two counties to recover valuable materials and divert waste from landfills. R&E employs 90 union and 33 non-union staff and collaborates with staff from two counties to perform this work.

Through all its work, R&E’s goal is to move materials up the waste hierarchy, pictured below, to ensure those materials don’t arrive at the R&E Center.

The R&E Board

The R&E Board governs the organization in carrying out its vision of “vibrant, healthy communities without waste.” Comprising of commissioners from both Ramsey and Washington counties, as well as ex officio members from the City of Newport and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the R&E Board brings together a mix of knowledge and expertise that oversees the impactful work that the organization conducts.

R&E Board Members

  • Fran Miron, Chair | Washington County Commissioner
  • Victoria Reinhardt, Vice Chair | Ramsey County Commissioner
  • Trista Martinson, Secretary/Treasurer | Ramsey County Commissioner
  • Karla Bigham | Washington County Commissioner
  • Mai Chong Xiong | Ramsey County Commissioner
  • Michelle Clasen | Washington County Commissioner
  • Nicole Joy Frethem | Ramsey County Commissioner
  • Rafael E. Ortega | Ramsey County Commissioner
  • Stan Karwoski | Washington County Commissioner
  • Gary Kriesel (Alternate) | Washington County Commissioner
  • Mary Jo McGuire (Alternate)| Ramsey County Commissioner
  • Tom Ingemann (ex officio member) | City of Newport
  • Dave Benke (ex officio member) | Minnesota Pollution Control Agency


As R&E continues to grow and evolve, several positions were added to the organization to ensure a sustainable staffing level in support of the R&E Center and Joint Activities programs: Food Scraps Pickup Program Supervisor, Food Scraps Pickup Program Communications Specialist, Food Scraps Pickup Program Customer Support Associate, HR Generalist and Contract Specialist.

Partnership on Waste and Energy (PWE)

Ramsey, Washington and Hennepin counties continued to collaborate to maximize diversion of waste resources through integrated waste management solutions. Learn more about the work conducted by the partnership in 2023 by reading the PWE Annual Report.

Programs: Upstream Waste Prevention

R&E works with the counties and partners to provide programs to promote waste reduction, reuse and recycling. This collaboration supports local food recovery efforts, helps businesses operate more efficiently and provides resources to help community members live more sustainably.

Approximately 20% of waste collected in Ramsey and Washington counties is food scraps, like fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells, bones and coffee grounds. To keep this material from becoming trash, the counties and R&E worked together to develop and launch the Food Scraps Pickup Program – a new way for residents to recycle food scraps from home. The program is currently rolling out over several years to all residents in Ramsey and Washington counties.

The program utilizes thick, compostable “food scrap bags” to collect this material. Food scrap bags are collected with trash and then sorted from the trash at the R&E Center, where they are then sent to a processing facility and turned into nutrient-rich compost. This system requires no additional carts or collection trucks and allows all residents to participate, regardless of city, housing type or hauler.

Food Scraps PickUp Program

How It Works

Food scraps pickup step 1

Order your free supply of food scrap bags.

Food scraps pickup step 2

Collect your food scraps in the bags. Once a week or when the bag is full, tie a knot at the top to close the bag.

Food scraps pickup step 3

Place your bag inside your trash cart or dumpster for collection.

Food scraps pickup step 4


Program pilot (April-October 2023)

In April 2023, the Food Scraps Pickup Program was pilot tested with about 2,000 households in areas of Cottage Grove, Maplewood, North St. Paul and Newport. The purpose of the pilot was to test the program with a limited number of households before scaling it up. Pilot areas were chosen based on hauler routes and population representation across the two counties. Around 260 eligible households participated in the program’s pilot, with a participation rate of 12%. Feedback was gathered from eligible pilot households to improve the program as it rolls out.

Program Expansion

In October 2023, the program expanded to all residents of Cottage Grove, Maplewood, North St. Paul and Newport – about 39,000 households. At the end of 2023, the program had a participation rate of 7.8% with 2,861 households enrolled.

Communications, Outreach and Community Engagement

A variety of participant resources and communications tactics were used throughout 2023 to ensure easy access to program information, including: a program website, e-newsletters with programmatic email updates, customer service (including a phone line, chat and contact form), direct mail, social media and traditional marketing campaigns, community events and in-person engagements and partnerships with municipalities. Program resources are available in English, Spanish, Hmong, Somali, Karen and Oromo.

Celebration Event at R&E Center

On July 17, 2023, state, county and local officials joined R&E, Ramsey and Washington County staff in celebrating the completion of the facility enhancements that will be used to recover food scrap bags and recyclables from the waste stream. More information can be found in the event press release.

Partner and Media Coverage

In 2023, several stories were published about the Food Scraps Pickup Program, including the program launch and supporting AI technology used to separate food scrap bags from the trash. Highlights from the local media and municipality partners include:

BizRecycling helps businesses, nonprofits, apartments and schools reduce waste and recycle better by providing free technical assistance and funding through various grant options.

BizRecycling Partners

BizRecycling Partners facilitate relationships and create two-way communication channels between the local public waste management system and the commercial sector by:

  1. Disseminating information
  2. Engaging members to provide input
  3. Connecting members to resources, such as BizRecycling, to implement best practices

R&E currently works with 18 local chambers and economic development groups to better connect with the business community. In 2023, the Midway Chamber of Commerce became BizRecycling’s newest partner.

BizRecycling Success Stories

Through a BizRecycling Waste Reduction + Innovation Grant, Rustic Roots Winery installed a keg-washing machine and purchased reusable kegs to increase reuse.

Through a BizRecycling Recycling Grant, Zvago Senior Cooperative added a power door to their property’s recycling room to make recycling more accessible to residents.

2023 BizRecycling Impact

Businesses and Institutions

1.1 million pounds of waste diverted from the trash

1,171 tons of CO2 avoided equivalent to 254 cars off the road

$24,461 in annual cost savings to businesses 

139 businesses received a basic site assessment

14 started collecting recycling

29 started collecting organics

60 made improvements to existing collection systems

81 awarded grants

$510,302 in grants awarded

19% of businesses that received grants are owned by people of color

Apartments and Condos

261,586 pounds of waste diverted from the trash

504 pounds of CO2 avoided equivalent to 60 cars off the road

$8,740 in annual cost savings to apartments

103 apartments buildings received on-site assessments

6 apartments started collecting recycling

25 awarded grants

$290,838 in grants awarded

33% of buildings are in neighborhoods highly vulnerable to climate change

Waste Reduction & Innovation Grant

The Waste Reduction & Innovation Grant supports businesses in implementing large-scale waste prevention projects. These projects can take many different forms, including buying in bulk, package reduction, reuse and remanufacturing.

Two Waste Reduction & Innovation Grants were awarded in 2022, totaling $85,000. Projects are being implemented in 2024, with an anticipated reduction of 2,131 tons of waste.

Food Recovery Grants and Food Waste Prevention

In 2023, R&E partnered with organizations to support food waste reduction efforts. Some of the highlights of this work in Ramsey and Washington counties includes:

  • Providing operational support for five food recovery organizations totaling over $175,000
  • Over $200,000 in Food Recovery Grants awarded to 15 organizations
  • Over 14 million pounds of food recovered and distributed to people in need
  • Over 25,000 pounds of local, fresh produce collected from farmer’s markets and distributed to food shelves
  • Over 1 million meals produced using recovered food and served to communities
  • A continued partnership with the LEAFF Program, operated by The Good Acre, to support BIPOC farmers that reside and farm in our two counties, ensuring that all their produce went to communities and helping farmers maximize their crops, preventing 30,000 pounds of locally grown fresh produce from going to waste

Food Recovery Success Story

With the help of a Food Recovery Grant, Basic Needs, Inc. of South Washington County opened their food market in Cottage Grove. The market is stocked with food recovered from local grocery stores and provides a retail-like setting for community members experiencing hunger to select food they want in a dignified way. The market creates a convenient way for recovered food to be distributed to community quickly to ensure food goes to its best use – feeding people. The Food Recovery Grant supported necessary equipment for safely moving and storing food, as well as staff time and software to efficiently manage food donations.

Apartment Recycling Specialists

Apartment Recycling Specialists build community capacity for waste reduction and recycling, and act as trusted messengers in their multi-unit communities.

In 2023, there were five residents within the counties that served as Apartment Recycling Specialists. This year’s specialists organized several programs, including plastic film collection, food scraps collection, educational tabling, residential outreach and mattress and electronic collection events.

The Business Pollution Prevention Program (BP3) provides free technical and financial support of up to $50,000 to help businesses – like dry cleaners, auto body shops, industrial painters and printers – to transition to using safer, more sustainable chemicals and high-efficiency equipment.

R&E awarded a record-setting seven grants this year, totaling $188,000. The program funded a couple new types of projects, such as dust collectors (which capture fine particulate matter) as well as solvent recyclers (which allow chemical solvents to be reused several times before disposal).

BP3 also helped fund the decommissioning of the last perchloroethylene (PERC) dry cleaning machine in the two counties. R&E is pleased to announce that Ramsey and Washington counties are PERC-free.

Impact: Projects funded by BP3 in 2023 reduced annual VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions by 1,240 pounds and hazardous waste generation by 4,050 pounds.

BP3 Success Story – Escape Climbing

Escape Climbing, a wall climbing molds designer and manufacturer in Little Canada, recently used the Business Pollution Prevention Program to install a solvent recycler to reclaim isopropyl alcohol. Solvent recyclers allow solvents to be reused several times before disposal. This results in decreased solvent use, hazardous waste generation and associated costs.

Early pollution reduction results are positive, with Escape Climbing on track to recover 65 gallons of isopropyl alcohol every year. This will reduce their hazardous waste volume by one-third and save nearly $900 annually.

Mattresses are considered bulky waste and are often unable to break down naturally. Many parts of mattresses are recyclable – from the steel inner spring to foam toppers to box springs! R&E works with cities and multi-unit properties to offer mattress collection through Second Chance Recycling.

In 2023, 5,600 mattresses were collected, preventing 154 tons (or 308,000 lbs.) of waste. Various strategies were used to collect mattresses, including:

  • 1,700 through municipal drop-off events
  • 2,800 through residential curbside collection
  • 700 from multi-unit buildings
  • 375 from public property

Deconstruction is the process of taking apart a building so materials — like cabinets, light fixtures, structural lumber, doors and more — can be reused instead of being sent to a landfill. In addition to encouraging reuse, the grant also requires material that is unable to be reused to meet an elevated recycling rate. The deconstruction grant program requires proper management of hazardous materials prior to salvage and/or structural removal.

  • In 2023, R&E dispersed funds for two grants, one from each county, totaling $7,530.
  • Ramsey County issued one grant for a renovation project. The majority of the salvage work and documentation was completed by the homeowners themselves.
  • Washington County issued one grant for a complete structural removal. The property owner partnered with a local deconstruction firm to complete salvage work. Coordinating with their demolition contractor, they sent all non-reusable material after salvage was completed to a recycling and processing facility.
  • From just two grants in 2023, over 10 tons of materials were documented for reuse and 59 tons of material was recycled.
  • Program staff collaborated with multiple additional outside county partners to help inform development of similar programs in their respective counties.

As the Food Scraps Pickup Program ramped up in 2023, R&E continued to explore ways to increase demand for compost in the two counties. As the counties are sending more food scraps to compost facilities, we also want to ensure that there is adequate demand for this valuable end-product. R&E and Ramsey County provided 231 cubic yards of food scrap-derived compost to 24 community gardens and a community event at no cost. Over 250 cubic yards of compost was also distributed for free to Washington County residents and community gardens through yard waste sites and the Environmental Service Center. R&E provided free soil nutrient testing to community gardens in both counties prior to compost distribution to encourage gardeners to make informed choices about soil amendments.

R&E continued to provide compost and monitor results of a study conducted by Alliant Engineering and the City of Roseville exploring impacts of compost on an area near an urban bike and pedestrian trail. Results continue to demonstrate improved soil health, plant growth and health in areas treated with compost.

Throughout 2023, R&E worked with Wilder Research to learn more about the reuse industry in the two counties. Wilder engaged with residents and reuse businesses to better understand behaviors, interests and needs within the reuse industry. Wilder conducted a resident survey, business interviews and resident focus groups to gather information for a report of findings and recommendations related to reuse in the two counties. Results of this work will be used by R&E, Ramsey and Washington counties to determine opportunities to better support reuse efforts throughout our communities..

The following are key findings of this research:

  • Many residents are supportive of and engaged in reuse efforts
  • Barriers to reuse stem from access and limited resource
  • Reuse-related businesses represent diverse operations and services

R&E, Ramsey and Washington county staff will continue to reference the report to inform future reuse work and explore the actions recommended by Wilder.

R&E Center Tours

Over 100 tours welcomed 750+ individuals from a wide range of groups – including K-12 students, resident and community organizations, businesses and industry and governmental partners. Efforts were made to standardize tour resources, presentations and activities, and interactive elements and resources were added to enhance the tour experience.

Development of Educational Materials

R&E and county staff continued working on the development of classroom resources for K-12 students, including video lessons, teacher guides and activity sheets.

Food Waste Reduction Campaign

At the end of 2023, R&E and the counties completed a digital ad campaign to increase visibility of food waste reduction information and tips. Across several platforms, including online blogs Minnesota Parent and Twin Cities Mom Collective, the campaign received over 1.3 million impressions, with over 14,000 individuals clicking through to the food waste reduction tips on R&E’s website.

Website & Social Media Statistics

In 2023, 39,000 visitors came to R&E’s website, looking for information on food waste reduction, how residents can drop off items at the R&E Center and the Food Scraps Pickup Program (which now has its own website upon launch of the program in April 2023). To better serve the community, website changes are being made to prioritize requested information, including mattress drop off and recycling options.

R&E Center: Responsible Downstream Waste Management

Working with five transfer stations and over 80 haulers, the R&E Center processes all trash from residents and businesses in the two counties – That’s nearly 14% of the state’s trash! At the R&E Center, trash is processed to recover recyclable metals and to produce fuel used in Xcel Energy power plants to generate electricity. Processing trash keeps it out of landfills and recovers value.


439,418 TONS


57% – delivered directly to R&E Center
43% – delivered to transfer stations
400,901 tons processed at the R&E Center
38,517 tons sent to landfills from transfer stations

400,901 TONS


331,227 tons refuse-derived fuel produced
18,893 tons process residue produced
30,247 tons bulky waste landfilled
12,219 tons ferrous metal recovered for recycling
810 tons aluminum recovered for recycling
104 tons appliances recycled
52 tons tires recycled
6,256 mattresses shredded
1.6 tons food scraps composted
Note: Total tonnage variation compared to breakout list due to factors such as moisture loss and year-end inventory.
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fewer metric tons of CO2 produced than if trash had been landfilled



cars taken off the road for a year


tons of metal recovered for recycling


more tons of waste processed than in 2022


homes powered for a year by electricity generated from refuse-derived fuel produced at the R&E Center

Facility Improvements

Odor Management

In 2023, there were no instances of MSW odor detections above permitted levels. R&E and its contractors conducted 701 odor inspections in 2023, with only 1.1% resulting in MSW detections, none of which were above permitted levels.

For the past two decades, Ramsey and Washington counties have partnered to evaluate alternative waste management technologies. Through the R&E Board, the counties have prioritized moving high-value materials in waste up the waste hierarchy. The R&E Board envisions a higher use for waste materials in the East Metro to achieve environmental, economic and community benefits for the next 20- to 30-years and beyond. Pursuit of new solid waste management technologies to capture more value from waste is also a key strategy to meet the state’s 75% recycling goal.

The R&E Center’s recent facility enhancements now recover source-separated food scraps and high-value organic-rich materials (ORM) from trash. The higher use of organics, which otherwise becomes RDF or process residue, has taken shape through several years of extensive research, reference facility site visits and engagement with technology providers. 

Anaerobic digestion is a technology that converts organics (such as food waste) into clean, renewable energy called biogas. In September 2023, after a 3-year procurement that included a two-phase procurement, multi-dimensional evaluation and competitive negotiations, the R&E Board approved an organic material feedstock supply agreement with Dem-Con HZI BioEnergy, LLC. Under this agreement, Dem-Con will build and operate a digestion facility at their campus in Louisville Township, just outside of Shakopee for a minimum of 50,000 tons per year food scraps and ORM. The biogas will be used as a carbon-negative substitute for fossil fuels, and the remaining solids will be converted into biochar, a beneficial product used for soil amendment and remediation. The digestion facility is estimated to begin operations in early 2027.

The R&E Center manufactures over 333,000 tons per year of refuse-derived fuel (RDF), a value-added product from trash. Currently, Xcel Energy generates electricity from RDF, which powers about 12,500 homes a year. R&E’s agreement with Xcel expires on December 31, 2027. The R&E Board’s strategic road map for solid waste management system establishes “a phased approach to change conversion technology for RDF and diversify markets” in the coming decades. This direction has driven the exploration and evaluation of new processing technologies and end uses for RDF.

In 2023, R&E received proposals from its Request for Information process from providers of processing technologies and end markets for RDF. A crucial part of proposal evaluation is observing technologies operating in real-world conditions. This allows the Board to understand capabilities and fitness to R&E’s needs first-hand. In August, Facility & Finance Committee Chair Martinson, with R&E and county staff, conducted a site visit in Toledo, Oregon, to view a demonstration facility that recovers paper fibers and recyclables from trash. The attendees gathered information on the technology and its potential application to materials produced at the R&E Center.

Financial Statements

R&E operates out of three budgets: the Joint Activities Budget, the Facility Budget and the Equipment Maintenance & Repair Budget.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that the financial figures presented in this report are unaudited, and the final audited numbers will be provided at a later date.


Project Management


Business Recycling


Community Waste Solutions


Food Scraps Recycling


General Outreach


Policy Evaluation




The Joint Activities Budget supports a variety of projects to meet goals outlined in the counties’ waste management plans and is funded by Ramsey and Washington counties. Both counties charge a fee associated with collecting trash, referred to as the County Environmental Charge (CEC). A portion of CEC fees fund the Joint Activities Budget.














Enterprise Reserve Fund (ERF)


Transfer to Equipment Maintenance Fund


Debt Service




The Facility Budget supports the operation of the R&E Center. This enterprise budget is funded by tipping fees.


Equipment and Maintenance




The Equipment Maintenance & Repair Budget supports equipment maintenance, repair and replacement at the R&E Center. This budget is funded by the sale of recyclables recovered from the trash at the R&E Center.