It's always good news when a multi-million dollar investment turns out to reap more than it sows. So it goes with the city of Cincinnati's 2011 $3.6 million investment in its expanded recycling program.
According to a report delivered to City Council's strategic growth committee, 18,880 tons of waste were diverted from Rumpke landfill in 2011.
The expanded recycling program featured three key changes, including doling out recycling carts to every household eligible for curbside recycling, the highly successful Recyclebank incentive program and switching pick-ups to every other week instead of weekly.
According to Sue Magness, Recycling Coordinator for the city of Cincinnati's Office of Environmental Quality, the jump marks a 75 percent increase in household recycling participation since prior to the expansion's implementation; the city earned 20,000 new recyclers during the transition.
Cincinnati reached an all-time recycling low in 2007, when only 10,850 tons were recycled. Since then, rates have been slowly increasing, says Magness, thanks to strong local proponents and a serious focus on easing the process of recycling.
The numbers are encouraging, says Magness, but she's confident rates could continue to increase with higher community awareness and education. "Based on waste audits, we know what 60 percent of what's going into the landfill is recyclable," she says. "That's 32,000 tons that people are still putting in the wrong can."
The popular Recyclebank program, according to Magness, has proven to be the a strong ally in increasing recycling rates. The average recycler, she says, earns about $250 in coupons and savings just by recycling. Promoting multi-family recycling and continuing to improve recycling technologies will help. The next big step in boosting participation? Instituting a pay-as-you-throw program in every Cincinnati municipality.
She admits it's a lofty goal — and likely far off from actually being implemented in Cincinnati — but it's also one that's proven most effective in the 8,000 communities across the country that currently have such programs in place. "Just like with other utilities, when you have to pay to use something, you're more cautious. Here, you can consume, consume, consume and throw away as much as you want with no penalty."