A recycling revamp early last year saw collections increase and a recent survey has sought to build on that success.
“The ultimate goal is to boost participation and we wanted to target those who maybe had low participation or were not participating to see why they weren’t,” City Manager Shawn Purvis said Monday. “The more recyclables we collect is less trash that is in the system.”
To that end, the Clinton Public Works and Utilities Department, in conjunction with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), formulated a survey gauging public input on local recycling and how it might be improved.
A letter from Public Works director Jeff Vreugdenhil and the City of Clinton, sent to residents in May, told them about the 96-gallon blue recycling cart that was placed at their home roughly a year prior, how every other week they are picked up and the recyclables contained in them — be it paper, plastic bottles, aluminum cans or glass — are taken to a center so the materials can be processed and made into new products.
“The recycling program has shown success in the past year but we are striving to make it better,” Vreugdenhil stated.
Surveys were attached to those letters. Others could complete an online survey at the city’s website, at cityofclintonnc.com.
Briana Steele, recycling and waste reduction outreach assistant with AmeriCorps, is working with DENR as part of an internship with the city and is expected to give a presentation at Tuesday night’s Council meeting on survey results and her recommendations on how to better educate citizens about recycling.
As part of her research, the survey asked pointed participation questions in an effort to improve collection efforts.
“Questions were geared to neighborhoods that did not participate as often, asking what kept them from it, whether it was awareness, time or something else,” Purvis pointed out.
Spurred by a matching grant that paid half the $150,000 cost of purchasing 3,000 96-gallon blue containers, Clinton began a revamped curbside recycling in March 2013. Since that time, recycling has been collected from single-family homes and duplexes Tuesday through Friday every other week and each Monday for businesses with ABC permits, as well as other commercial and industrial customers who require more frequent collection.
A year ago, in August 2013, the city brought the recycling program into all the Clinton City Schools.
The result was well over 400 tons of single-stream recyclables collected in the first year, from April 2013 through March 2014, compared to less than half that collected from drop-off convenience sites during the same period the year before. Since that time, the numbers have stayed steady.
Offering additional help last year, the city received a grant for RFID (radio frequency identification) readers, electronic chips in each of the carts that allow the Public Works Department to track their location and how often they are picked up, which has helped a great deal in tracking participation information.
That data showed that many are participating, but there is still a contingent that does not put the blue containers out, or misuses them altogether.
“There are 2,692 96-gallon blue recycling containers in the City of Clinton, and out of that total, 462 or 17 percent, of the containers have never been set out from December 2013-March 2014,” Steele noted at the time.
Through the survey, Steele and the city targeted those neighborhoods where participation in the program has been low, specifically households that have yet to utilize their recycling containers or use it as an additional garbage can. A $100 gift card at Piggly Wiggly, a $50 gift for Sandpiper Seafood Restaurant and a $50 gift card for Go Automotive were recently handed out to three random winners who responded to the survey.
Purvis and others hope the results of the survey have given the city the information needed to improve the program moving forward.
“We have had incremental growth (throughout),” the city manager said. “We know the numbers are going to plateau at some point, but we’ve maintained a very good tonnage.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-249-4616. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.