Eureka Recycling is one of the largest nonprofit recyclers in the United States and is a leader in demonstrating the best waste reduction and recycling practices not only for the Twin Cities metro area, but for the nation. For over 10 years, Eureka Recycling has been Saint Paul’s nonprofit recycler. Under a long-term contract with the city, Eureka Recycling provides recycling services to Saint Paul’s homes and apartments. In addition, Eureka Recycling is a leader in waste reduction education, programs and advocacy.
Waste is Preventable, Not Inevitable
Eureka Recycling is exceptional in that it recognizes the value in the resources we commonly call garbage. Waste haulers who provide recycling services view recycling as a way to manage waste. Eureka Recycling challenges this view and believes that our resources are valuable—like gold—and should be managed wisely. To accomplish this, Eureka Recycling puts into practice a model of resource management rather than waste management, a model that assumes waste is preventable, not inevitable. As a mission-driven nonprofit organization, Eureka Recycling looks beyond the bottom line to provide the best practices for recycling by advocating for practices that achieve the optimum balance of cost, personal convenience and environmental benefit.
Eureka Recycling is a community-based organization that is accountable to the residents it serves. Since the community is its only shareholder, Eureka Recycling’s “profits” are invested back into community in the form of education, outreach and added services. Eureka Recycling’s newest endeavors, including the purchase of a fleet of recycling trucks and development of a recycling facility, allow it to ensure excellent services while keeping program cost down. By internalizing these costs, Eureka Recycling can use the savings to improve or create innovative recycling and waste reduction programs for the community rather than having to meet subcontractors' profit margins. Furthermore, Eureka Recycling’s direct involvement in operating trucks and a recycling center means that Saint Paul can look forward to a growing community-based recycling program in the future.
Eureka Recycling traces its roots back to 1985, when a group of citizens formed the Saint Paul Neighborhood Energy Consortium (NEC) to implement energy conservation programs in the community. In response to citizen requests, the organization started Saint Paul’s recycling program in 1986. The NEC expanded Saint Paul’s recycling program substantially over the years and gained national recognition as one of only a few municipal recycling programs run by a nonprofit.
In November 2001, Eureka Recycling was created as a separate nonprofit organization to carry on the legacy of the NEC and Saint Paul’s nationally recognized recycling program, as well as expand its efforts in recycling and waste reduction.
- In 1999, Saint Paul’s recycling program began facing significant challenges. SuperCycle, a local independent recycler and the NEC’s longtime partner for collection, was sold to Waste Management, Inc., a large publicly held waste company. The sale was part of a nationwide trend of consolidation in the solid waste and recycling industry. Furthermore, in March 2000, county commissioners voted to close the Ramsey County Recycling Center on Rice Street, thus eliminating the only independent processing option for small haulers.
- With its longstanding recycling partnerships no longer in place, the NEC became concerned that the lack of competition for recycling services would lead to poor service and higher prices in Saint Paul’s program. The city of Saint Paul and the NEC agreed to work together to evaluate the short-term and long-terms options for ensuring a successful recycling program.
- In October 2000, the NEC board passed a resolution to lead in the development of a recycling center where the community has control over costs and input into the way in which it is operated. Every district council in the city of Saint Paul passed a resolution in support of this effort, which continues today.
- The NEC determined that a new organization, with a separate board and fiscal structure, was needed to successfully carry out this project. Eureka Recycling was created in November 2001 to focus all of its available assets on maximizing the efficiency of Saint Paul’s investments in recycling its resources.
- In September 2001, Eureka Recycling and the city of Saint Paul signed a 10-year contract extension through 2013. Eureka Recycling agreed to keep prices steady for the duration of the contract, including no cost of living increase.
- In April 2003, Eureka Recycling launched its own fleet of 14 recycling trucks that run on biodiesel. The trucks are the first part of Eureka Recycling’s venture into the sphere of operations and are part of an ambitious plan to ensure a high level of service in Saint Paul’s recycling program for years to come.
- The city of Saint Paul and Eureka Recycling developed a facility that can process recycling materials from Saint Paul and other metro area cities.
- In January 2004, Eureka Recycling opened the doors to its new recycling facility, capable of handling 60,000 tons of recyclables each year from Saint Paul and other metro area cities and businesses. With the opening of the facility, Eureka Recycling is able to provide much needed competition for recycling in the metro area and is poised to demonstrate the true costs and benefits of recycling.
- Eureka Recycling moved Saint Paul’s recycling program to a two-sort system and added plastic bottles to the program in October 2004, a major step in the redesign of the city’s recycling program that will make it one of the most innovative in the country. Eureka Recycling is now preparing for the next step: to collect organic materials like food scraps and nonrecyclable paper. This, combined with recycling, will lead Saint Paul to a 75% diversion rate and demonstrates Eureka Recycling’s mission to reduce waste today in innovative ways and reach a waste-free tomorrow.