State Fair Stays Ahead of the Curve on Recycling, Composting

August 29, 2018 10:47 AM

Minnesota State Fair Operations Director Cory Franzmeier calls the Great Minnesota Get-Together a "strange animal" when it comes to the amount of waste left behind. 

"When you get 200,000 people in one spot on any given day, it's a challenge," Franzmeier said. 


With hundreds of thousands of people visiting every day, the fair generates tons of recyclable or compostable waste during its 12-day run.

According to Franzmeier, fairgoers generate 70 tons of comingle recyclables, better known as plastics and aluminum. 

RELATED: What Happens to State Fair Sewage

Every day, Franzmeier and his crew hit the pavement to collect recyclables left behind. Once collected, volunteers and workers sort through what is gathered to separate garbage and recyclables.

Franzmeier also said nearly 225 tons of cardboard are recycled every year during the fair. 

Aside from waste familiar to household recycling bins, the State Fair sanitation crew also deals with organic waste.  

According to Franzmeier, a majority of this is leftover food from vendors. The biggest culprit: leftover corn cobs. 

Last year alone, the fair generated 90 tons of compostable waste, the largest amount to date, but offering composting isn't where recycling ends for fair food vendors. 

With fried food being an important part of the fair, there are dumpsters where vendors are able to dispose of their grease. 

Once the grease is collected, it's sold to an outside vendor who uses it to create biodiesel. 

"It's a way for them to conveniently get rid of their grease," Franzmeier said. 

Franzmeier said a majority of the food vendors have climbed on board the trend of trying to cut the fair's footprint.

"That's life right now," Franzmeier said. "We're trying to be more conscious about what we're throwing away. I think (the vendors) are used to it." 

He added, "Everyone is trying to do their part." 

As sustainability initiatives continue to grow, Franzmeier said the fair has taken a number of steps to stay ahead of the curve. 

RELATED: KSTP at the Fair

"Every year we're trying to get better and better when it comes to getting vendors to sell things that are recyclable or compostable," he said. "We just want to be the trendsetter if we can."

To help set those trends, the fair stopped selling Styrofoam cups this year -- instead urging vendors use paper cups or plastic cups. 

In the future, Franzmeier hopes to see the recycling efforts return to benefit the fair. 

"That would be an amazing situation to be able to compost our material and get it back here and put it back in the grounds," he said. "I think at some point we will, but right now we're working at getting [compost] into the right bins, getting it to the right places and teaching our vendors and the public that this is what we're trying to do." 


Ben Rodgers

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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