Hutchinson has been collecting and composting food scraps from residents since 1999 and offers bi-weekly trash pickup as well. There is a 98% participation rate in the composting program, and the materials are processed at a city-run facility that sells the finished compost in five states and operates at a profit for the city.
The state of Minnesota banned yard waste from landfills and incinerators in 1992. Hutchinson was having troubles with both its yard waste facility and its efforts to compost biosolids at the wastewater treatment plant, which eventually led the city to invest in a composting facility to create marketable compost to manage all organics.
In 1997 the City began three pilot programs to collect food scraps in order to reduce the pressure on landfills and to increase the materials going to its composting facility. The first phase consisted of collecting food waste from grocery stores and large businesses. The second phase added waste from school cafeterias. The third phase added a pilot residential program.
The first two phases were discontinued due to funding constraints but in 2001, the household pilot expanded citywide from its original 250 homes. Currently about 6,000 households are served by the program and the city boasts a 98% participation rate. Hutchinson won an EPA award for their composting program.
Residents put yard and food waste into a green 90-gallon organic cart collected weekly. Compostable materials include:
Compost is collected weekly on the same day as trash. The cost of service depends on the size of the trash container—there is no additional charge for composting. As of August 2013, the cost of a 90 gallon trash can was $39.92 per month, a 60 gallon trash can was $29.02 per month, and a 30 gallon trash can was $20.12. Residents can also downsize to every other week trash collection for only $14.16 per month.
Residents are provided with 8 special kitchen waste biodegradable bags per month (or 2 bags per week). Additional bags can be purchased throughout the town for $5 for two rolls of bags. With the delivered compost bags comes a brochure on how/what to compost.
Participation is voluntary but is very high at 98% participation. There is a financial incentive to participate because residents could save money on trash service by downsizing to a smaller bin if they use the green cart for their food and yard scraps.
The county provides weekly curbside recycling to all Hutchinson residents and for every municipality in the county.
Hutchinson operates a public composting facility called CreekSide that utilizes 20 in-vessel composting containers to create and sell several lines of soil and garden products. The facility was originally built to process source separated organics from residents of Hutchinson and the rest of McLeod County, but has expanded to collecting wood and yard trimmings and then branched out into the Twin Cities metro area, contracting to process yard trimmings collected by several other municipalities.
Production of their compost product has steadily increased from 1.2 million bags of compost in 2007 to nearly 2 million bags in 2009, and is shipped to customers in a five-state area. CreekSide bags 90% of their products and sells more than two dozen products such as all-purpose potting soil, a manure compost, a straight compost, cow manure, and professional planting mix and garden soils, as well as mulches in bulk.
The initial setup cost of the facility was $3.4 million, with an assumed payback in five years based on compost sales. To pay for the program and facility, Hutchinson combined $900,000 from its budget from water/sewer/refuse collection payments with a $1.34 million capital grant from the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance. McLeod County also provided $1.125 million for the necessary composting equipment. The facility has an annual operating budget of about $2.5 million and is a self-supporting enterprise. While just managing organic waste was the original goal of the facility, not being profitable, CreekSide was predicted to return $100,000 back to the city in revenue in 2011.