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NORMAL - Normal has grown but its garbage hasn't.

To Public Works Director Mike Hall, that means more people are practicing the three Rs - reduce, recycle and reuse.

And that's like putting money in the bank.

It costs Normal $115 a ton to pick up garbage and take it to the landfill, but it's only $34.50 per ton to collect recyclables from drop-boxes around town, and process and ship it to contracted recycling venues.

"Recycle, recycle, recycle. It's cheaper," said Hall.

Bloomington isn't seeing the same results, but Rick Clem, superintendent of solid waste for Bloomington Public Service, still thinks the city's curbside recycling program is a good idea.

"It keeps things from going to the landfill," he said.

Normal saw a 4.7 percent increase in recycled materials from 2004 to 2005; Bloomington's recyclables went down about 1.7 percent.

The Normal increase takes on even more significance when you consider garbage totals. Hall said garbage trucks stopped at 243 more houses in 2005 than in 2004 - a 2.5 percent increase - but only took 0.7 percent more garbage to the landfill.

"That's a really small percent," he said.

Clem said the drop in Bloomington's recycling totals could be attributed to the weather. When it rains and paper in curbside boxes gets wet, it can't go through the Normal transfer station, he said.

The city's recycling totals includes only items going through the transfer station. Wet paper has to be recycled at Midwest Fiber.

"Overall, (Bloomington's recycling) has flattened out," Clem said. "But a lot more people are doing it consistently."

Last spring, the city added recycling boxes to teachers' lounges at several Bloomington schools and is willing to expand it to classroom paper when the schools are ready, he said.

It costs Bloomington about $300,000 a year to operate its curbside recycling program. Normal's drop-box program costs about $125,000 a year.

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