Oct 14, 2021 - Business
More Twin Cities businesses embrace low-waste practices
Recycling symbol made of plastic utensils
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

We're well aware of the need for a reusable tote after Minneapolis' single-use bag fee took effect this month. But that's not the only low-waste option shoppers have in the Twin Cities.

What's happening: More retailers and restaurants are embracing a number of trash-free practices, from offering reusable takeout containers to selling products in bulk.

Why it matters: We produce a lot of garbage. The Twin Cities metro alone generates around 3.3 million tons of waste each year.

  • And we're dumping more and more. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency expanded four metro landfills this summer in response to a 30% increase in garbage in the last year.

The big picture: Studies suggest that plastic waste significantly increased worldwide during the pandemic, in part because of greater demand for single-use plastics.

State of play: Dedicated bulk markets, like Minneapolis' Tare, appear to be paving the way for low-waste alternatives in the metro.

  • Tare Market — named after the word for the weight of an empty container — focuses on bulk food, such as spices, grains and even candies. Customers bring their own containers, or borrow one from the store by paying a returnable deposit.

Home goods store Zero(ish) Co., which operates under a similar concept, opened this August. Customers bring their own containers and purchase refills of cleaning, beauty and household products by the ounce.

  • They also sell other low-waste goods, like reusable coffee filters, shampoo bars and dissolving laundry detergent strips.

Meanwhile, some Twin Cities restaurants have begun offering Foreverware, a reusable takeout container customers can "check out" for a $5 deposit. They get the deposit back once the container is returned.

  • Each steel container has an asset tag to track when, where and how often they're used.

What they're saying: Since November, Foreverware has saved over 10,000 takeout containers from landfills, co-founder Natasha Gaffer said.

  • "It's been a great way for us to introduce more people to low-waste options outside of just our menu," a staff member from Foreverware partner Wise Acre Cafe told Axios.

Zoom out: As consumers become more aware of climate change, adapting sustainable practices can help a business' bottom line, said Natalie Huang, assistant professor of supply chain and operations at the University of Minnesota.

  • "More people are willing to pay a premium or stay loyal to firms that show their environmental efforts," she said.
  • And, reducing waste during production can help businesses operate more efficiently. It can be cheaper over time too.

The bottom line: It's unlikely you’ll be able to fit five years of your trash in a single mason jar. But sustainable options are available and attainable, no matter how small.

  • "You don't have to be the perfect zero-waste consumer," Zero(ish) founder Kate Marnach said. "Any step toward reducing your trash matters."

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Twin Cities.

More Twin Cities stories

No stories could be found

Twin Citiespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Twin Cities.