The City of Clinton’s curbside recycling program, now in its second year following a revamp and public outreach push that brought a spike in collection, can still be improved despite tonnage figures and participation percentages that served as yearly high-water marls, Public Works officials have said.
In an attempt improve the program, the Clinton Public Works and Utilities Department, in conjunction with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has formulated a survey that will gauge public input on local recycling and how it might be improved.
“A year ago, a 96-gallon blue recycling cart arrived at your residence,” the letter from Public Works director Jeff Vreugdenhil and the City of Clinton, to be sent out next week, reads. “You can put recyclables (things like paper, plastic bottles, aluminum cans and glass) inside and the City of Clinton will pick them up every other week and take them to a recycling center where the materials are processed and made into new products.
“The recycling program has shown success in the past year but we are striving to make it better,” the letter states.
The survey will be attached to that letter. Others will also have the option to complete and submit the survey online at the City of Clinton website, cityofclintonnc.com.
Briana Steele, recycling and waste reduction outreach assistant with AmeriCorps, is working with the DENR in order to reach out to communities in rural parts of the state to improve recycling. Clinton was suggested to her as one that had restructured and vastly improved its efforts, and was looking to continue on that path.
She started meeting with Vreugdenhil and other City of Clinton Public Works officials last month.
“I told them what I was trying to do and they were receptive,” said Steele, who culled through survey questions with city officials. “We didn’t want it to be generic. We wanted to be specifically for Clinton.”
The survey will be sent out starting Monday and residents will have roughly three weeks — until a deadline of June 11 — to fill out those surveys and return them, whether by submitting it online, by mail, dropping it off at the Public Works temporary offices on Ferrell Street or faxing it.
“I’m hoping to get feedback from residents about the program. For those who are not participating, did they receive and read the information about the program? How did they hear about the program before it began? We want to see the best way people get information about the recycling and the barriers to participation,” Steele pointed out. “If you have a cart at your residence, what is preventing you from participating?”
The program has been successful, but it is hoped to improve it even further.
Spurred by a matching grant that paid half the $150,000 cost of purchasing 3,000 96-gallon blue containers — the city paid the other $75,000 — 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.
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 the less than half that collected from drop-off convenience sites during the same period the year before.
Last year, the city received an additional 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. “In our upcoming work, we hope to target households who have yet to utilize their recycling containers in an effort to improve the effectiveness of the program. We also hope to target residents and neighborhoods in Clinton where participation in the recycling program has been low or where there are repetitive incidences of the recycling cart being used as an additional garbage container.”
Feedback from Clinton residents through the survey will be used to first assess their knowledge about the recycling program so that those further outreach measures can be tailored to be most effective.
Steele said it will be a short turnaround following the survey, as she will likely examine the data and survey answers as they come in and formulate recommendations to the Public Works department, which she hopes to have to them as early as the end of June.
“I’ll essentially tell them what we’re seeing and next steps,” she pointed out.
And, a further incentive for residents to take the 5-10 minutes to complete the three-page survey, those who submit a survey will be eligible for a prize.
Following the June 11 survey deadline, all survey participants’ names will be placed into a random drawing to win one of three prizes, including a $100 gift card at Piggly Wiggly, a $50 gift for Sandpiper Seafood Restaurant and a $50 gift card for Go Automotive.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.