Thursday, April 24, 2008

People love the environment, but nobody wants to pay for recycling

The experiences of one community faced with recycling challenges. Some "new" ideas."

Local officials often say recycling costs too much, but perhaps they are not evaluating all the costs. Many cities have found that a close analysis reveals significant savings. New York, for example, is a national leader on the least cost-effective recycling programs, plastic and glass. The city expected to save $39 million, but increased landfill costs ate that up. It has now embarked on a more advanced program to recycle more efficiently and economically.

Mandatory recycling need not be the only option. It should be noted that some cities have boosted recycling participation by providing incentives. Some are designed to reduce the amount of garbage thrown out, thus indirectly encouraging recycling. For example, if a town requires that a resident pay for stickers to go on each bag of trash thrown out, those residents are motivated to recycle more in order to pay less in garbage fees.

More creative ideas can boost recycling directly. The Philadelphia suburb of Cherry Hill works with RecycleBank, a firm that offers residents gift certificates if they reduce the amount of trash they send to landfills.

The company provides trash containers that a truck picks up. After scanning a bar code on the container, a computer on the truck records the container's weight. Based on that, residents get credits toward certificates for use at local businesses or national retailers.

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