As the City of Clinton closes in on the one-year mark since returning to curbside recycling, the amount collected is being called staggering — the new program will see nearly triple the tonnage collected the previous year.
The city began its revamped curbside endeavor on March 12, 2013. Nearly a year later, Public Works and Utilities director Jeff Vreugdenhil gave an update on how well things have gone, offering 11 months of numbers that tower over any city recycling figures from years past.
“It’s been extremely well-received by the public,” Vreugdenhil said. “Our community has really excelled in doing this, and the statistics prove it.”
Those stats show that from April 2013 through February 2014, the city has collected 413 tons of single-stream recyclables out of the 96-gallon blue roll-out carts, compared to the 160 tons collected from drop-off convenience sites during the same period the year before.
“We’re on the right track,” the Public Works director attested. “Next month will be a full year’s worth of data. I anticipate that we’ll collect 460 tons for the year, and I’m really proud of that.
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 after an eight-year hiatus. 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. Each school now has a small green bin in classrooms, and the big blue carts in lunchrooms and hallways. Recycling from schools is picked up three times each week.
About six months ago, 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.
“I can tell you when they’re dumped and if they’re dumped or not. I can tell you the participation rate of the owner of the cart,” Vreugdenhil attested.
The RFID readers have shown what Public Works crews already knew — participation has been outstanding. Even through the nasty winter weather of the last several months, the streets have been dotted blue. And the involvement looks only to grow.
“I think our participation will go up during the warmer months,” Vreugdenhil noted. “Everybody is getting on board.”
The city began curbside recycling in 1993 using shallow 18-gallon containers, but began exploring other recycling options at the end of 2005 due to contractual issues, increased costs and low participation rates that dipped under 20 percent.
Upon abandoning curbs, the city up until last year rented 30-yard roll-off containers at four convenience drop-off sites and had those containers hauled away as part of a $55,000 annual contract. There was decent participation, but in many cases it was a loss because items could not be processed by company Pratt Industries due to the commingled items being tainted by non-recyclables.
Vreugdenhil sought the most convenient, resident-friendly single-stream recycling venture.
In early 2013, Public Works crews distributed pamphlets, brochures, even refrigerator magnets, detailing everything residents need to know about the city’s new curbside program, from what items can and cannot be recycled, how the single-stream collection works and information detailing the positive environmental and fiscal benefits that come with recycling.
A contest was even held through which winning art entries from the Clinton City Schools’ elementary and middle school students were enlarged and placed on the city’s recycling truck.
Feedback from businesses and residents on the curbside program has been overwhelmingly positive. And more of those businesses and residents will soon have the chance to participate.
“This coming year, we look to expand into apartment complexes and businesses,” Vreugdenhil remarked.
In addition to the city’s curbside recycling, the city also offers recycling services for electronics, vegetable oil, cardboard and mercury-containing light bulb recycling at the Public Works Department at 200 John St.
According to Stacey Ray, senior administrative specialist for the City of Clinton, residents can bring light bulbs to Public Works, provided they are not busted. For the vegetable oil recycling, residents are encouraged to bring the oil in a sealed container. It has to be cooled with minimal food debris and the container must be labeled “vegetable oil,” Ray stated.
Just as the city has expanded its various drop-off recycling options — thanks in part to landfill regulations that have become more stringent in recent years — Public Works officials also want to continue to expand those who are able to utilize its curbside service in order to make the process more convenient.
“We have some carts left over,” said Vreugdenhil, “and we anticipate doing a business by-request cart this coming year, having businesses call in and considering them to be a recipient of a blue cart. That has been very, very popular.”
City Council members, after hearing the whopping numbers in a presentation by Vreugdenhil this week, lauded the Public Works director and his staff for their dedication.
“Jeff, I commend you for your passion on this whole project,” Councilman Steve Stefanovich said. “You have done a whale of a job and the staff’s done a great job. What’s exciting to see is this was something the residents of our city wanted, (and) it was just a matter of giving them a way to do it and do it conveniently. You did that with the grants and the roll-outs. It’s just a great job.”
Vreugdenhil similarly commended the Council for taking the initiative to invest in the program and thanked his staff for their hard work, taking on the curbside duties with no additional equipment or help.
“I think what I’m most proud about is we were able to do this and we did not hire any additional personnel nor did we buy any additional trucks,” he beamed. “We’re getting about all we can get with what we have, but I’m really proud our guys have been able to do that and take on this challenge.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.