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<>From* /Recycling Today/
By Brian Taylor/DeAnne Toto
Recycling advocates have watched with dismay as large cities facing budget cuts have scaled back or, in a few cases, eliminated curbside recycling programs in recent years. To view a chart of the Top 20 Curbside Programs in the United States click on the following link -- Top 20 Programs <http://www.recyclingtoday.com/news/images/20largestcurbside.pdf>*All programs in the list accept old newspaper)
When several such program cuts occur in a short time period, it can certainly create an impression that curbside recycling is entering a declining phase.
Overall numbers determining the health of curbside recycling can be difficult to monitor, as villages, cities, counties and the haulers that serve them do not report their activities monthly to a central database.
What a brief survey of solid waste and recycling officials in America's largest cities has found is that most larger cities still provide recycling services with a curbside collection component.
Participation by residents can vary widely, as can publicity efforts, materials accepted and other factors that can affect exactly how many tons of material are collected through curbside efforts.
The list of largest curbside programs may more accurately represent a list of the 20 curbside programs with the greatest potential to be among the nation's largest. The attention paid to maximizing material collected can vary greatly from city to city, but these 20 programs currently offer curbside collection to the greatest number of households.
As is always the case when compiling such lists, our accuracy depends mightily on the amount of cooperation received from potential candidates. Representatives from some cities have provided what should be a current and accurate figure. Others provide a figure on their city government Web sites or have provided figures for media coverage in the recent past.
Unfortunately, programs in some cities might belong on this list, but we were unable to confirm a reliable number to attach to the program. And certainly, it is possible the we overlooked a medium-sized city or a regional solid waste district operating a program that is worthy of making this list.
If you are affiliated with a program that should have been on the list, please let us know so that we can let our readers know. You can contact Editor Brian Taylor at email@example.com
*FACING THE CHALLENGES*. Speakers at a panel at the 2004 Paper Recycling Conference designed to address the status of curbside programs acknowledged budget challenges but also cited success stories.
Despite the problems many cities are facing, a number of cities, as well as private sector businesses, are stepping into the breach to ensure that curbside recycling programs remain in place, according to speakers at the session, held in late June in Atlanta.
David Robinson, Recycling Coordinator with the city of Philadelphia, noted some of the successes of his city's program. Along with enhancing public education, the city has developed an effective partnership program with some private sector companies in the Philadelphia area. These companies include recycling-based companies as well as large businesses that can assist the city with community outreach and advertising programs.
The FCR Inc. subsidiary of Casella Waste Systems, one of the largest material recovery facility (MRF) operators in the country, has had success developing recycling programs in a host of cities. Bill Leonidas, with FCR, based in Charlotte, N.C., notes that a key to running a successful curbside collection program is the ability to both boost the volume of recyclables as well as improve the quality of the collected material.
Leonidas said that if a city could increase its recyclables collection rate from 12 percent to 25 percent, the net result would be that the per-pound cost of recycling would drop by 50 percent, making collection more cost-effective.
While volume and quality of the material are important, other issues that need to be looked at include collection and processing efficiencies and planning for the fluctuating values of the commodities being collected.
To improve the efficiencies in processing, the group responsible for the activity should look toward using improved technology to lower the per-ton cost. For collection efficiencies, routes should be optimized to increase the amount of material collected on a run, panelists remarked.
*POTENTIAL GIANTS.* The list of cities appearing on our 20 Largest Curbside Programs chart may more accurately be considered a list of the potentially largest programs. Many cities put contracts in place to serve all their residential neighborhoods--but this by no means guarantees that the tonnage they are collecting puts them among the 20 largest on that list.
Judging the largest programs by participation, tonnage collected and quality of material collected would, unfortunately, require uniform reporting standards and verifiable figures provided both by cities and their processing partners.
Effectiveness notwithstanding, many of the largest cities also have the (potentially) largest programs. But the 20 Largest list does not follow in line with America's largest cities by population. Among the larger cities not making the list are Houston and Detroit, while smaller cities that provide comprehensive service, thus leapfrogging larger cities, include Albuquerque and Fort Worth.
*New York* was in the headlines when its curbside program was cut severely in 2002. The city has since re-introduced the collection of many materials it had previously suspended and remains a major collector of accumulated materials from as many as 3.5 million households.
The city of *Los Angeles* has made major purchases this decade of larger recycling carts that its residents can use to bring commingled recyclables to the curb. Recycling is available to some 700,000 households in Los Angeles.
In *Philadelphia*, a city leadership team and processing partner in Smurfit Recycling have revived a declining program. The tonnage of material collected from the city's 530,000 households began to jump noticeably starting in 2002.
*Phoenix *is a fast-growing city in the Sun Belt that offers curbside collection to some 340,000 of its households. Any household in Phoenix that is eligible for trash pick-up can place recyclables into a "Phoenix Recycles" blue box.
In *San Francisco,* Norcal Waste Systems is the processing partner that collects and processes recyclables from all of the city's 335,000 households. Recyclables are taken to Norcal's $38 million Recycle Central MRF, which was opened last year.
In a state known for its fondness of doing things big, *San Antonio* boasts Texas' largest curbside program. This August, the city launched a publicity and education program to increase the beverage container recycling rate.
City leaders in *San Jose* have gained a reputation for ensuring that contracts with private haulers include strict recycling collection rules as well as inducements for maximum recycling program effectiveness. The city or haulers it contracts with collect from some 280,000 households in the city.
The Golden State provides another curbside program example in *San Diego*, where some 270,000 households are served. This year, the city partnered with Allan Company, Baldwin Park, Calif., to installed a confidential shredding plant at the Miramar Landfill to divert shredded documents into the recycling stream.
King County, Wash., and its largest city, *Seattle*, have long made recycling and environmental protection a priority. The city offers recycling pick-up to all its residents and helps manage a variety of programs to maximize the recycling of C&D debris, electronics, food waste and virtually anything else that can be recycled.
Often referred to as the Second City, *Chicago *ranks a little lower on this list. The city offers curbside collection to about 256,000 households. It has had a "blue-bag" program in place that, as of 2002, was collecting about 280,000 tons per year of paper and containers.
On the East Coast, *Boston *studies and manages the participation of some 250,000 households that are eligible to take part in curbside recycling. Recently, the city has worked with processing partner FCR as well as publishing and paper companies to boost its old magazine (OMG) recycling rate.
The sprawling (and growing) city of *Jacksonville*, Fla., offers curbside collection to a quarter million households. The city provides blue bins for mixed household recyclables as well as helping citizens make arrangements for appliance and tire recycling.
In *Baltimore*, budget woes put the future of the city's curbside recycling service up for discussion earlier this year. Currently, the city and county provide curbside collection to the city's 230,000 households and offer downloadable recycling education information through its Web site.
Private hauler Community Waste Disposal (CWD) provides recyclables pick-up and processing to some 230,000 *Dallas *households. In Dallas, CWD accepts several grades of paper as well as containers for recycling.
*Memphis* has made curbside recycling available citywide since 1996. Municipal annexation and accepting more materials have kept the program growing. The city works with FCR as its processing and materials marketing partner.
Farther north, *Milwaukee's* program has also been citywide since the mid-1990s. Working with Waste Management Inc.'s RecycleAmerica Alliance as its processing and materials marketing partner, the city accepts most grades of paper and beverage and food containers.
Rapidly growing *Charlotte*, N.C., has also seen its recycling program grow. The city works with Casella Waste subsidiary FCR, which is headquartered in Charlotte, as its processing partner and reports a 50-60 percent participation rate from the 180,000 households served.
In *Fort Worth*, Texas, several collection techniques have been introduced and modified in recent years. As of early this year, the city reported that the amount of material collected through its recycling program had tripled, but that quality concerns resulted in some 25 percent of that material being rejected.
The city of *Denver *has recently contracted with home-town processor Tri-R Recycling (see "Lofty Heights," starting on p. 26 of this issue) to begin processing its collected material next year. Tri-R is installing a single-stream sorting system to process the collected paper and containers.
Further south along the Rocky Mountain range, *Albuquerque*, N.M., is collecting material from more than 150,000 households. The city collects recyclables from residents every other week and supplements its curbside program with 15 drop-off centers for the city's apartment dwellers.
/Dan Sandoval, senior editor for Recycling Today, assisted in compiling city information./
/The authors are editor and associate editor of /Recycling Today/. Comments on the story can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>./
*Near Misses and Just Missing*
Some of America's larger cities that are not on this list may either have just missed making the cut, or they provide curbside recycling to a relatively small portion of their residents or we were unable to determine how many households they serve.
Among the larger cities with dormant or small-scale curbside programs are Detroit; Columbus, Ohio; and Cleveland.
Houston, one of America's five largest cities by population, just missed making the top 20 by a few hundred households. The city would appear to be one where curbside recycling has the potential to greatly expand.
Other cities that helped make up the next tier of programs (with from 120,000 to 150,000 households served) include Tucson, Ariz.; Austin, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Portland, Ore.; Omaha, Neb.; Virginia Beach, Va.; and Sacramento, Calif.
And we had a hard time reaching a few cities that may belong on the list in the future, including Indianapolis, Ind.; Washington, D.C.; El Paso, Texas; New Orleans; and Las Vegas.
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