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 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 collected with trash. With this system, food scrap bags and bags of trash all go in the same trash can.

How It Works

Food scraps pickup step 1

Order your free supply of food scrap bags.

Do not use other compostable bags–the bags provided by Ramsey and Washington counties are designed specifically for this program

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.

Tie the top of the bag like you would tie a balloon. This type of knot is best for keeping the bag sealed

Food scraps pickup step 3

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

Do not put the food scrap bags inside a regular trash bag. Do not place them in your recycling. Do not place them on top of or next to your trash cart or dumpster–they should go inside.

Food scraps pickup step 4


After collection, the food scrap bags are separated from the trash and brought to an industrial compost facility.

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

What is the timeline? 
Rollout will begin in 2023.  

Program Participation

How much does it cost to participate?
Bags and program participation will be FREE to residents in 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 already used 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 tested the bags in actual loads of garbage. 

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 scraps 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?
The counties are funding parts of this program (bags, customer service, website and education) with funds from the  County Environmental Charge (CEC) that each county collects. This service charge is included on your waste collection bill and funds both counties’  waste programs.

The improvements at the Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy Center to separate food scrap bags from the trash for composting is funded by a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which was part of the 2020 Minnesota State bonding bill. Facility improvements are also funded by the fee that trash haulers pay to deliver trash to the R&E Center.

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. The counties 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 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. 

Question not answered here?
Call 651-661-9393 for additional program information.