The recycling tonnage collected from Clinton curbs has increased every week since the city’s bi-weekly program began last month, a rate projected to cut into the city’s waste stream by 20 percent should it continue.
City officials are optimistic it will, lauding residents for a huge participation rate and vowing continued growth to the overall collection effort. Through three weeks, Public Works director Jeff Vreugdenhil said the tonnage has only risen.
“Our first week of recycling, we picked up 10.67 tons. Our second week, we picked up almost 14 tons. Our third full week of recycling we picked up 21 tons,” he said. “If we stay at that pace with 21 tons, we will get near 600 tons of recyclables for the year, which far surpasses our expectations.”
Spurred by a matching grant that paid half the $150,000 cost of purchasing 3,000 96-gallon containers, the city returned to a curbside service after an eight-year hiatus on March 12. Since then recycling has been collected Tuesday through Friday every other week.
“People are really participating,” said Vreugdenhil. “We’ve already picked up 46 tons in three weeks — way past what we were doing with convenience sites; way, way beyond. It’s easily going to be three times what we we’re doing at the convenience sites. It is obviously apparent, we are going to average over 20 tons a collection period. That’s going to put us over the statewide average.”
As much as Vreugdenhil appreciates the participation, and urges it to continue, he also reminded residents to adhere to the biweekly schedule. It’s good to see the street dotted blue, he said, but only on weeks when those recycling carts will receive attention.
“By and large, people are putting their cans out on their biweekly schedule. About 15 percent of our people put that blue cart out there every week — they haven’t quite caught on to it,” said Vreugdenhil. “If they need a calendar, they can call us and we can get them access to one. We don’t want blue carts out there every week. At some point in time, we may be talking about that.”
Vreugdenhil noted large participation at Fox Lake and Coharie Country Club, as well as other areas around the city, where carts stayed full. He praised residents for the response to recycling and urged such efforts to continue across the city.
Citizens are adhering to the rules of what is included for curbside recycling and the quality of the recyclables is also much better because the homeowners are responsible for their own carts, he said. If there are problems, city crews flag carts with friendly reminders, however the problems are far less than they were under the previous program.
The old program consisted of a $55,000 a year contract service by which the city rented 30-yard roll-off containers at four convenience drop-off sites and had them hauled away when full. There was decent participation, but in many cases it was for naught because the collected items could not be processed by processing company Pratt Industries and the $30 per ton recouped by the city.
“They were tossing (bagged recyclables) in there and Pratt would get it and couldn’t handle it. We were getting refrigerators and tires and step ladders and Christmas trees (in the large roll-off containers), you name it,” said Vreugdenhil. “Pratt Industries is far more pleased with what we are bring them than what they were getting at the convenience sites.”
Cutting the waste stream
Successful single-stream recycling is a prospect that could not only pay dividends for the city but be a positive impact to the environment.
“We do about 5 million pounds of residential garbage in Clinton, not including commercial garbage, annually,” the public works director remarked. “In our first year (of curbside recycling), we are on pace to reduce that waste stream by about 20 percent.”
Vreugdenhil said the city pick up an average of 12 tons of trash in each of four days of the week for 52 weeks for a total of about 2,500 tons, or close to 5.6 million pounds of garbage (one ton equals 2,240 pounds), annually. An average of 21 tons of recycling for the 26 collection weeks would mean 546 tons collected in all, cutting significantly into that waste number.
Also factoring natural growth and increases for summertime — “it’s seasonal; it’s going to get stronger in the summer when the kids are home,” Vreugdenhil said — a 600-ton recycling figure would mean around 1.34 million pounds of recyclables in one year’s time, or 24 percent of the current residential waste stream.
Even getting close to that figure would be substantial.
“If we get a million pounds out of the waste stream, at 20 percent reduction, that’s a humongous success,” Vreugdenhil said. “We’re already reducing our waste stream by a conservative 20 percent. We need to encourage people to participate. The participation rate has increased significantly. Participation by those who have carts is probably over 60 percent.”
That percentage also could be higher, due to other people who have carts and may not have pushed them out to be serviced, opting to wait until the next collection week until their cart is full.
“I was really surprised to go from 14 (tons) in the second period to 21 (tons) in the third,” said Vreugdenhil. “It’s jacked up there right away.”
He credited the hard work of Public Works staff, including Public Works manager Tony Steffen and senior administrative specialist Stacy Ray. That work is expected to continue.
“We meet with City Schools next week about how we can start a recycling program in Clinton City Schools that we collect every Monday,” said Vreugdenhil. “It’s a no-brainer for them to participate, and they want to. We just have to get the method to the madness figured out.”
A couple hundred 96-gallon containers remain of the 3,000 received at the beginning of March.
Those carts are expected to be distributed on a by-request basis, with the city attempting to strategically hand out the carts in areas where they can be best utilized and collected. Many commercial businesses, restaurants, government buildings and ABC permitted establishments that need weekly pick-up, especially bottle collection, have access to carts and they are serviced during a special route every Monday.
Vreugdenhil said he hopes to add Clinton City Schools to that list, as well as others.
“We’re expanding the program almost daily,” said Vreugdenhil. “We’ve passed out almost 200 carts to people who didn’t receive one in the initial single-family, two-family program. If people are interested in a cart, there is a possibility they can get one if they call us.”
Opportunities for expanding the curbside residential and commercial recycling collection would continue to be explored.
“Our guys have been handling it really well and the citizens have had a very strong participation rate,” said Vreugdenhil. “We’re looking for good customers and we’re going to expand this program.”
For more information about recycling, or to get a bi-weekly collection calendar, contact Clinton Public Works at 910-299-4905.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.