Participants Can Earn Coupons Redeemable At Nearly 300 Chains
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
March 18, 2008
Mayor Eddie A. Perez wants Hartford to turn its recyclables into cash.
Perez announced a pilot recycling program Monday that allows city residents to earn cash couponsby recycling their household waste. The coupons would be redeemable atnearly 300 national chains — Staples, Dick's Sporting Goods and CVS Pharmacy, to name a few — as well as a developing list of local businesses.
"We know we can do much better than we are doing now," Perez said at a press conference Monday. "And with this pilot program we think things are going to be different. One of the reasons things are going to be different is that with this program, there is a reward system for people to recycle. We are not just asking people to be politically correct, but we are asking them to think about their pocketbook at the same time."
In making his announcement, Perez told a small crowd outside city hall that Hartford will "go green by using blue," then pointed to a shiny blue recycling barrel that is part of the new program.
A $200,000 grant from the National Recycling Partnership, a coalition of associations committed to improving municipal recycling programs, will be used to pay for equipment for the program.
Hartford has had significant trouble getting its residents to recycle, with the citywide recycling rate among the nation's worst — city officials say only about 10 percent of potential recyclables are recycled. The national rate is about 32 percent, according to city officials. Perez said he hopes to push the city's number closer to 50 percent, or higher.
The new program, a "single-stream recycling" plan that will start in May, will initially include 5,000 households in selected neighborhoods throughout the city. The city's public works department chose households for the program that are in some of the city's more difficult recycling locations, officials said.
Perez hopes to extend the program citywide if it is successful.
Participating households will receive a letter from Perez in April telling them they have been selected to take part.
The city will provide each household with a 64-gallon blue barrel to be used for all the home's recyclable items — paper, plastic, metal and glass. Embedded in each barrel will be a radio frequency identification tag that tells a computer on the collection truck which barrel belongs to which household. The recyclables will then be weighed by the truck to determine how many points a family will get.
Each household can then access an account by Internet or phone through one of the city's partners in the project, at www.recyclebank.com, to redeem rewards at any of the participating businesses. Homes are capped at earning up to $400 a year.
Lest any house think to fill its barrel with bricks, lead weights or bottles full of water, Kate Krebs, executive director of the National Recycling Coalition, which is partnered with the city on the project, said the truck drivers will be watching. Recyclables have an average weight, and if the computer detects a wide deviation from that weight, a home gets flagged for closer inspection, she said.
Krebs applauded Perez Monday and commended the city for its "leadership and commitment to improving recycling for the citizens of Hartford."
Jessie Stratton, a former state representative and a lobbyist for the Connecticut Chapter of the Sierra Club, said Monday that Hartford's recycling rate is "pathetic" and said the pilot program "is a step worth exploring, and seeing if it works."
However, she was skeptical of the "rewards" approach, saying that, as recycling rates stagnate statewide, it was unclear how effective the approach would be and what would happen if the businesses offering the incentives pull out. Instead she supports two bills before the General Assembly with what she described as more proven programs — "pay-as-you-throw" programs and expanding the 5-cent deposit to single-serve water bottles.
"I think the Hartford plan will have an impact, but I don't know how big of an impact," Stratton said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at