Food Scraps Pickup Program FAQ

Program Overview

Why collect food scraps?
Food scraps comprise about 20% of trash collected in Ramsey and Washington counties, by weight. The counties are developing a new way to recover this material so that it can be converted back into soil, rather than becoming waste. Recovering food scraps from trash will help reach the state’s recycling goals and provide health, environmental and economic benefits to the community.

How will food scraps be collected?
Food scraps will be collected from residents using special bags, called “food scrap bags,” that will be co-collected with trash. With this system, food scrap bags and bags of trash all go in the same trash can.

Bag Graphic

Bag Graphic


Food scrap bags are durable and compostable. They are thicker than compostable bags used at county drop-off sites or sold in retail stores or onlineand are designed to withstand the journey in a garbage truckThe bags are also certified compostable, designed to eventually break down along with their contents.  

What is the timeline? 
Rollout will begin in late 2022. The counties don’t yet have a firm date on when service will be available to all residents, but are hoping by the end of 2023. 

Program Participation

How much does it cost to participate?
Bags and program participation will be FREE to residents in both Ramsey and Washington counties. 

How will the bags be distributed?   
Bag distribution will occur through an online ordering system with multi-lingual and call-in options available.  

Will this service be available in apartment buildings and condos?

Do residents have to participate?
No. This is a voluntary, opt-in program. 

Will this service be available to businesses? 
The counties are exploring this possibility. The service may be available to small businesses for a fee in the future. 

Does this mean I don’t need to worry about food waste?
Actually, wasted food wastes the money that you spent on that food, the fuel used to transport it, the water and other resources used to grow it and more. The counties offer resources and education to support food waste reduction and will continue to do so.  

Program Logistics

Why use food scrap bags instead of separate carts? 

  • Less expensive. According to the counties’ analysis, a system using separate carts would cost about ten times as much as a system using food scrap bags. 
  • More efficient. This system does not require additional collection carts, collection day or collection trucks. Instead, food scraps are collected using the trucks and garbage routes that are already in the community. 
  • Fewer greenhouse gas emissions. A food scrap bags system results in a net decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, while a separate cart system results in a net increase (largely due to having more collection trucks on the road). 
  • More equitable. Food scrap bags allow all residents, regardless of housing type, city or hauler, to participate. Buildings like apartments and condos don’t always have space for separate carts. 

How can the food scrap bags withstand the trip in a garbage truck?
Food scrap bags are different than the ones currently used at food scrap drop-off sites or sold in retail stores or online. They are much thicker and are specifically designed for this purpose. The bags are about three times as thick as a grocery store plastic bag and meet special standards for strength. The counties have been testing the bags in actual loads of garbage to make sure they work and won’t break during transit. 

How are the bags going to be sorted from the trash? 
Robotic sorting technology will be used to separate the bags from the trash. Robotics have been used successfully for this purpose in other locations. 

Will contamination be an issue with this program?
Just like with recycling, education will be key to reducing contamination with the food scrap pickup program. The counties will launch a robust educational campaign on materials accepted at the start of this program and continue with consistent, frequent messaging after the program has launched. 

How is the food scrap pickup program being paid for?
This program will be funded in part by the County Environmental Charge (CEC) that each county collects. This is a service charge included on your waste collection bill that funds both counties’ waste programs. The fee that trash haulers pay to deliver trash to the R&E Center will also help fund this program, along with a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency funded by the 2020 Minnesota State bonding bill. 

Other Questions

Is this going to make my home smell?
Using food scrap bags is just a different way of collecting the same material that’s currently going in your trash can. As with your garbage, if you take your bags of food scraps out to your garbage cart or dumpster regularly, odors should not be an issue. 

Will each county’s food scrap drop-off sites still be available?
Yes. The food scrap bag program will be one part of a larger system for collecting food scraps. You may prefer the drop-off sites or backyard composting – do what works best for you! 

Will compostable paper products be accepted in this program?
The counties are committed to continuing to provide a recycling option for compostable paper. We are currently assessing material management options, and this will help us determine what materials will be accepted as part of this program.  

How will residents that self-haul trash and recycling or use a small garbage cart participate?
The food scraps pickup program will give residents another option for recycling their food scraps. Other options include county drop-off sites (which will continue to operate) and backyard composting. Residents should use the method that works best for them.