Recycling is coming back to curbs across Clinton.
It will definitely be bigger, and city officials expect it will also be much better. The City Council paved the way for the return of curbside recycling this week, giving its blessing to enter into a state grant program — no town that has applied for it has been denied — that would pay half of the $150,000 cost of purchasing 3,000 96-gallon containers. The other $75,000 will come from the city.
Curbside recycling is set to start on March 12.
Public works director Jeff Vreugdenhil and others have researched the issue, and a possible return to curbside, for a while now. He said it is important to not only be efficient in city operations, but more effective. He gave a brief overview to Council members explaining how the program will work, as well as its benefits and his goals in making the change.
“My goals are to increase our collection tonnage and to be more convenient for the citizens of Clinton,” said Vreugdenhil. “It is my hope that those who currently do not recycle will take advantage of the convenience of single stream curbside recycling. I think it is the right message to send to those who look at Clinton from the outside to see that we are being proactive and that we are sending a proper message to our youth the we are being responsible.”
The benefits of curbside recycling are plentiful, said Vreugdenhil.
It would minimize the total regular garbage, reduce the total work hours on the routine sanitation schedule and eliminate convenience site maintenance, he said. The city would also be practicing a green initiative, promoting its municipal image, improving the quality of the city’s waste stream and increasing recycling participation by the ease of use.
During the city’s 2012-13 budget deliberations this past spring, the re-implementation of curbside recycling was discussed, but it was ultimately determined the city should wait until at least January to allow time for evaluation of the fund balance situation and delivery of new sanitation equipment. With a fund balance exceeding the Council’s goal of 38 percent, and all new equipment delivered, Vreugdenhil said he was ready to move forward.
Initial cost to implement curbside would be almost completely offset by the discontinuation of the current contract with Onslow Container Service, which the city pays $55,000 annually for rental and hauling off of the 30 yard roll-off containers at each of the four convenience sites.
Those sites will go away, with the exception of the 200 W. John St. site, which the city will operate and service. The huge roll-off container at the site will be gone, with a dozen blue 96-gallon containers taking its place for single stream, cardboard and electronics recycling.
The curbside program will mean $26,000 in annual fuel and equipment costs, expected to be offset by $9,000 in revenue from the sale of a projected yearly collection of 300 tons at $30 per ton, bringing the total annual cost of the curbside program to $17,000. That is around $38,000 less than the current program.
The city will deliver a 96-gallon blue rollout recyclables container — the black container for trash is the same size — to all single family and duplex occupants during the two weeks prior to March 12. Each cart will remain property of the delivery address and is electronically identified with a microchip to its delivery address.
Containers will be emptied every other week on the resident’s normal trash collection day.
“Do you have to recycle? No, but we strongly encourage it,” said Vreugdenhil. “It’s solely voluntary, and it’s no cost to the citizens.”
He said the schedule for recyclable collection was such that it would not bombard neighborhoods.
“Instead of having roll-out carts on our streets and in your neighborhoods two days a week, it’s just one day and we can get our streets back to a clean appearance,” the public works director noted.
Items that can be recycled include aluminum, cardboard, glass bottles, juice boxes, milk and juice cartons, paper (newsprint, magazines, junk mail, phone books), plastics (all plastics numbered 1-7) and steel and tin cans. The accepted and non-accepted items will be listed on an in-laid mold on the container lids, unable to be scratched off.
A recyclable bag with enclosed informational brochures, schedules for recycling and trash collection, contact information, and “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” for single stream recycling will be attached to the new recycle containers, expected to be distributed at the beginning of March leading up to the first collection week.
Vreugdenhil said he is optimistic about the success the city will have with curbside recycling, saying that a lot has been learned from the N.C. Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach and other towns concerning trends in how to conduct a curbside collection program.
“We are fortunate to be able to take advantage of approaches other communities have been successful with and fine tune them to fit our needs,” said Vreugdenhil. “The biggest advantage to how we intend to approach our program involves using a 96-gallon container. The days of using an 18-gallon container and weekly collections are pretty much not considered for new programs. In all cases, bi-weekly collections of 96-gallon containers is what is now advocated.”
‘We can do a better job’
The city, which began curbside recycling in 1993 using those 18-gallon containers, began exploring other recycling options at the end of 2005 due to contractual issues, low participation and increased costs. The city’s estimated recycling participation rates at that time were around 15 to 20 percent, while other municipalities saw rates twice that at around 40 percent.
For years after that, the city utilized a 40 cubic yard roll-off container to collect recyclables dropped off at individual Igloo containers at each of the convenience sites. Once the roll-off was filled, it was hauled to Fayetteville-based Pratt Industries. When the sites began to overflow, the city transitioned in 2010 from the Igloo containers to renting 30 cubic yard roll-offs at each of the four sites, with an additional cost every time Onslow Container Service hauled the containers to Pratt.
Vreugdenhil said the transition to larger individual roll-out containers at homes across the city, and the collection of single-stream recyclables as part of regular trash collection every week, would prove beneficial to everyone involved.
In the past, the city has not been able to offset its contracted recycling costs because of fees incurred due to handlers forced to sort the recycling collected at the convenience sites, which often had trash and other debris commingled with the recycled materials.
“A lot of people take their recyclables up there in a grocery bag and toss it in there,” said Vreugdenhil. “That’s a major problem for the handlers, and if you’re getting paid, you get docked for that.”
The public works director said recycling participation numbers will go up, while costs go down.
“We’re going to haul this directly to Pratt, with our truck and our people,” Vreugdehil said. “I think we’re pretty enthusiastic about wanting to do this and I think we’ve thought through it pretty well . I’m extremely proud of our Solid Waste Department. They are extremely adaptable and are up to the challenge of taking on additional responsibilities. I wouldn’t advocate a program of increasing the work load of a department without additional staff without such a highly competent crew of men.”
Vreugdenhil said he is confident the city will see a successful programs, and said public education and participation is key. While the state average for curbside recycling is around 20 percent, some towns see upwards of 40 percent — that is where Vreugdenhil wants the city to be.
“I want to do well,” he said.
There were 196 tons of recycling collected at the convenience sites from April 2011 to April 2012.
“I’ll be very disappointed if we don’t double that,” he said. “To me, it’s about increasing our service level and improving services to residents. If we can do that, that’s what we want to do.”
One part of that is Business Bonus Mondays, which Vreugdenhil said would be a complement to the curbside recycling that would benefit local businesses, which are mandated to recycle their glass materials.
“On Mondays, I want to send our guys to these restaurants and collect their glass at no charge to them,” he said. “It will save our local businesses $12,000 a year.”
As with curbside recycling, the goal is to make it easier and more convenient, while increasing the level and quality of service.
“The impetus is to increase our service level,” Vreugdenhil said. “It’s fiscally responsible, it’s ecologically responsible. I think we can do a better job.”
Those with questions are asked to call the City of Clinton Public Works, at 910-299-4905.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.