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Seattle sorts through recycling options
SOURCE: REUTERS NEWS SERVICE:USA: January 14, 2003.
its recycling rate stalled at about 40 percent of its total trash haul,
officials in the Emerald City, known for its lush urban landscaping and
progressive politics, are acknowledging the plan may have been too optimistic.
is already well ahead of the 30 percent U.S. national recyclingaverage.
Its effort is bolstered by a population that eagerly sortsbottles,cans,
paper and plastic bags to be hauled off for free and spins yard wasteinto
garden gold in compost bins rather than paying for curbside removal.
getting to 60 percent could mean sending another truck to pick up foodscraps
- which make up about 20 percent of total waste - or offering freecurbside
service to businesses, which now mostly use optional privaterecycling
programs could raise costs, but Croll called money a minor factor. This
contrasts with cities like New York, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg last
year suspended glass and plastic recycling, saying that would help shrink
a big budget hole.
recycling costs typically rise when the economy weakens, cutting the price
it gets for recycled paper, but the program still tends to make a small
amount of money, offsetting small losses posted by the yard-wasteprogram.
don't think our decision is particularly budget related," Croll said."We've
gone nearly 10 years without raising the single-can (trash pickup) rate."
residents pay small monthly fees for trash removal - the bigger the can,
the higher the fee - plus optional charges for yard waste, which cannot
be dumped with regular trash.
city's 563,000 residents have embraced the system, which rewards recycling
instead of imposing penalties for mixing recyclables with trash as many
eastern U.S. cities do. Seattle's single-family homes are already at a
60 percent recycling rate and could go higher, Croll said.
the Rocky Mountain region, where land is generally cheaper and populations
more scattered, states recycled just 11 percent of solid waste produced
in 2001, according to BioCycle Magazine, a recycling and composting journal.
more crowded states in the Mid-Atlantic region, led by Delaware at 59
percent, topped the list at 40 percent on average, while the Midwest,
West Coast and New England came in at 34 to 35 percent.
a small, densely packed and generally wealthy New England state, reported
100 percent of its residents had access to curbside recycling programs
Delaware, Arkansas recycled 45 percent of its trash, followed by Minnesota,
New York, California and Maine which were all above 40 percent.
40 percent is pretty darn good. You pick your low-hanging fruit, but from
there, it gets more complicated and sometimes costs go up dramatically,"
said Preston Read, director of environmental affairs for the National
Soft Drink Association.
makers, which support curbside programs over the 5-cent a container-deposits
some states use to encourage recycling, have drastically reduced the weight
and materials used in plastic bottles and aluminum cans, lowering costs
as demand surges for recycled materials - used to make carpet, aluminum
siding, tennis balls, asphalt, car parts and clothing as well as new cans
and bottles - the soft drink industry hopes supply keeps pace, keeping
its costs down.
are just one of many different competitors for that material .... So the
more that gets collected, the more the price comes down," Read said.
by Chris Stetkiewicz
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