Nederland to re-energize recycling program

Published 7:09 pm Wednesday, July 29, 2015

NEDERLAND — The city’s recycling program may have an image problem.

The Nederland 2014 Community Survey results do not shine a favorable light on the drop-off recycling service, located in the Market Basket parking lot. City Manager Chris Duque said 27.7 percent of the 954 completed surveys submitted to City Hall last fall ranked the existing recycling program as “poor.” On top of that, Duque said, the drop-off recycling program received the lowest “used” ranking — with many residents reporting they’d never heard of it before.

“The frustrating thing about our recycling program is that it’s working — but, also, it’s not,” Duque said. “We’ve been working with the contractor for several months to fix some problems we were having with pick up. Recycling pick-up is scheduled for every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but at one point the days it wasn’t getting picked up outnumbered the days it was.

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“We are extremely appreciative of the property owners’ patience and allowing us to use their property to take collections, and we’ve been assured by the contractor this will no longer be a problem. It’s imperative to get our program back where it needs to be because in so many other ways, it is working.”

Duque said the two-year-old drop-off program is used for residential and commercial recycling, which means the bins fill up quickly. The people that do use the service enjoy it, he said, but so many scheduling problems with pick-up may have tarnished the program’s image.

“In the 2014 Community Survey, we actually asked several questions specifically about the recycling program — how it exists today with the drop-off bins at Market Basket and also how they felt about the potential for a curbside program,” Duque said. “Mid-County tried curbside pickup in the ’90s, and it did not work. That’s a large reason why, when we brought a recycling service back to Nederland, we changed it to the drop-off service.

“I think that past experience showed in our results, because our over 50 age group said they were fine with the drop-off service we have now. But the under 50 group said curbside recycling was more of a priority. Some of that population may be completely unaware the city tried that in the past and how unsuccessful that was.”

The survey also asked residents how much they would be willing to pay monthly for a curbside recycling service. Answers provided were $0, $1-5, $5.01-8, $8.01-10, and more than $10.

More than half — 50.4 percent — of the residents who responded felt that the city should provide a curbside recycling program that cost $1 to $5 a month. Nearly 70 percent of the under 50 group supported curbside pick-up. Additionally, that age group indicated a willingness to pay a greater variety of monthly rates for the curbside service. Duque noted the younger age group, largely supportive of a curbside program, was also the group less aware of the Market Basket drop-off program.

“When we asked people if they even knew about our drop-off recycling program, more of the over 50 group knew about it — so what did we miss there?” Duque said. “This program is important to us, and we want to see it succeed. I think the buy-in from the public exceeded out expectations when we first started it.

“The public works director and I have both noted how the recycling program has impacted our solid waste budget. We’ve seen a decline in the cost of our products going to landfills, so our solid waste has reduced. On top of that, there’s the obvious reason why any city would want to boost its recycling program — it’s great for the environment.

“I’m sure we’ll have a new promotion soon and try to figure out ways to get our younger residents, our younger families, involved. Because this is clearly something they’re interested in — they want to recycle — but somewhere along the line we’ve lost them. We’re providing a service they want, but many of them aren’t aware we have it. Now we’ve got to brainstorm to figure out how to make sure everyone in the community knows it’s here.”

Twitter: @crhenderson90