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Saint Paul Public Schools, District 625
360 Colborne Street
Saint Paul


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Waste & Recycling

Waste, Recycling, and Organics at SPPS


List of common acceptable/unacceptable recycling and organics items  

The Environmental Services Group (ESG) oversees the collection of all District trash, recyclables, and food waste. Saint Paul Public Schools continually works to improve our waste-prevention & recycling performance through source reduction, recycling, reuse & composting, in order to divert as much waste as possible from the landfill. This is accomplished through programs such as cafeteria recycling & organics, classroom recycling, E-waste, books, paint, fluorescent bulbs, batteries and metal recycling. The success of the District’s recycling program is dependent on all staff & student’s enthusiasm, participation and continued support. 

All trash from Ramsey County goes to the Recycling & Energy (R&E) Center in New Port, MN. When trash arrives at the R&E Center, it is tipped on a floor the size of a football field. Conveyor belts carry the material through a series of shredders, screens, and magnets that recover recyclable metals from the trash and process the remaining material into a fuel source (called refuse-derived fuel) that is used in Xcel power plants in Red Wing and Mankato to generate electricity. The R&E Center processes over 1,000 tons of trash each day, enough to cover a football field six feet deep. Learn more about what happens to our Trash.



From Garbage to Garden"

The 2017-2018 School year began a new phase of cafeteria recycling as schools across the District began participation in a Compost Organics Collection program. In addition to collecting food waste, the District now collects dirty, non-recyclable papers such as napkins, paper towels, tissues and any certified compostable products to be sent to Specialized Environmental Technologies (SET). SET is a large compost facility in Rosemount, MN where the schools’ food waste is mixed with yard waste and turned into nutrient-dense compost in about 3-6 months.

Compostable bags are used in the new Organics program. These bags are sourced locally from a company named Natur-Tec based here in Minnesota. In addition, no styrofoam trays will be used in SPPS cafeterias anymore! Compostable trays were rolled out District-wide and are accepted within our new program. Learn more about compostable trays  

Where We Started

In 2005, SPPS began a pilot food-to-hogs program with 5 sites where food scraps and milk were collected in the lunch room, picked up by a hauler and recycled into pig food. These pilots were successful, which led to the expansion of the program to 46 sites during the 2006-2007 school year. By 2010, 15 more schools were added to the program.

District-wide Relaunch of Recycling Program

In 2014, The District did a "re-launch" of our recycling program with the addition of single steam recycling in Saint Paul. New recycling equipment with visually comprehensive labels was rolled out across the District. This included new specially fabricated (by a MN Company: Murphy Construction) stainless steel sorting tables for the Cafeterias. These tables have color & shape coded holes.
A large green circle for organics, small blue squares for recycling and a red triangle for Trash. In addition, there are clips to hang signs for Organics, Recycling & Trash and extra clips to hang example items for each category. They are an all-in-one recycling center for our students.

Classroom recycling got an overhaul as well, swapping out the short blue recycling bins for tall blue “slim jim” recycling containers with blue labels and short grey trash bins with red labels. The idea is that more recycling should come out of classrooms (paper, bottles, cans) than trash, so the recycling bins are larger and taller. Classroom recycling is organized on an individual school basis with the coordination done by student groups and teachers working with their custodial staff.


SPPS Compost Organics & Recycling Video

learn about all the ways St. Paul Public Schools sorts our waste.