The first time Annette Hiner saw what she calls “that contraption” scooping up her 65-gallon wheeled recycling cart she wasn’t quite sure whether it was a really good thing “or just a really, really bad idea . . . with good intentions,”
“Did I want to haul that big thing out every week?” she asked. “How could that truck get everything without dropping half of it? How bad would the block look with all these carts sitting out?”
Months into seeing the contraption pick up her recyclables Hiner is sold. Hauling out the wheeled cart is easy, the truck lifts and dumps the contents with relative ease and the neighborhood block “doesn’t look as cluttered as I thought.”
Hiner didn’t participate in the recent survey of 2,846 households that took part in the Recycling Pilot Program in several neighborhoods beginning Feb. 1, but 48 percent, or 1369 households, did return the form, and it’s clear that many are like Hiner.
“The people have spoken, so to speak,” said Director of Public Works and Transportation Keith Melton. “If you look at the overwhelmingly high percentages, it’s quite clear that the pilot program is a success and this is something residents want.”
More than eighty percent of respondents gave favorable views on questions such as the ease of maneuvering and rolling of the cart, appearance, and the big question: Would residents be receptive to switching from the 22-gallon open bins to the larger wheeled recycling carts with lids?
“That summarizes it all,” Melton said of the preference question. Nearly 84 percent of respondents replied positively to the wheeled carts. “We’re confident about moving forward knowing the survey results.”
Melton said the carts are part of Republic’s multimillion-dollar investment in an automated collection system that also includes a compressed natural gas fueling station and new collection trucks.
City officials agreed to the pilot project for a variety of reasons. Cart usage would increase participation in recycling and thus extend the life of the city’s landfill. Larger carts hold more materials and having the carts picked up and dumped mechanically saves on manpower costs and increases safety for workers of Republic Waste Services. Employees no longer have to ride on the back of the vehicles, leap off and sling the bins’ contents into the truck.
“It’s easy to handle, it holds more and depending on the size of your family you don’t have to put the cart out as often,” Melton said.
Another sign of success: recycling participation is up from 70 percent in January to 88 percent in February and March. Melton said the average volume of materials also increased, from 7.8 to 9.3 pounds.
As for neighborhood aesthetics, a more uniformed look helps.
“Everyone has the same cart,” Melton said. “When you look down the street, theoretically it looks a little bit better. And when you get heavy rains I’ve seen the bins washed right down the street. These won’t wash down the street.”
By Ken Perkins