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Hartford Officials Expect To Save $100,000 With Single-Stream Recycling

Steven Goode

May 10, 2010

City officials estimate that the single-stream recycling program launched in Hartford last October will save the city about $100,000 in tipping fees when this fiscal year ends June 30.

The program, which has placed 64-gallon recycling bins at 23,000 households in the city, offers incentives to residents to participate. Each bin has an identification tag that sanitation workers scan to record the weight of the recyclables inside. Participants earn five reward points for every 2 pounds of recyclables and can turn those points into discounts at grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies and retail stores.

Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez said the keys to the program's success were the conversion to single stream recycling, replacing the 18-gallon bins with the larger bins, and offering residents "green for going green."

"We've made it simple for folks to do that," Perez said.

The program, which was tried out in about 4,500 city households in 2008-09, has also become popular with the city's sanitation workers, said Marilyn Cruz-Aponte, assistant to the director of public works.

"We've got motivated employees," she said. "The other option is to work the trash trucks."

Cruz-Aponte said the sanitation workers also keep an eye on what is coming out of the bins and going into the trucks to make sure only recyclables are being weighed and counted toward reward points.

Jeff Harse, public relations manager for New York City-based RecycleBank, which oversees the reward program for the city and about 300 other communities in the U.S. and United Kingdom, added that ecologically-conscious people who make the effort to recycle aren't likely to put something in the bins that doesn't belong there or harms the environment.

According to Harse, recycling efforts in the city increased 100 percent in the program's pilot year, which resulted in 520 tons of recycled material. In the first five months of the program since it was expanded, Harse said, residents had placed about 2,000 tons of recyclable material in the bins.

Cruz-Aponte said the city's efforts were helped by the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority's realization three months into the pilot program that it was dramatically increasing recycling.

"It gave CRRA the confidence to spend $3 million on changing its system," she said.

Harse said the program has also been a stimulus to local businesses that are visited more frequently by consumers cashing in bonus points and shopping. He estimated that if 25 percent of the city's residents participate in the rewards program, local businesses will see more than a $1 million increase in purchases next year.

City officials said they plan to do more outreach and education with residents and small-business owners and hope to have a community day at the city's recycling center at the base of the landfill to promote recycling other items, such as antifreeze, motor oil and computer components.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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