Officials are pleased with the first six months of curbside recycling in Mount Airy, but plan to form a new group to increase participation rates.
“I’m tickled to death with it,” said Scott Graham, a member of the city board of commissioners and also one of two councilmen serving on a public works committee that oversees curbside recycling.
Documents recently presented to Graham and Commissioner Steve Yokeley, the other committee member, show that 47.5 percent of city households were regularly recycling for the six-month period covering February through July. The program began on Jan. 31 to allow residents to conveniently discard items such as paper products, plastic containers, glass food bottles and jars, aluminum cans and others directly from their homes.
Public Services Director Jeff Boyles, who played a key role in launching the program after it was approved by the commissioners in 2011, says the recycling level can be viewed in two ways. One is the set-out rate, including those who regularly put out their blue containers for every-other-week collections, which stood at nearly 50 percent for the first six months.
But the actual participation rate, pertaining to those who don’t set out a cart every time but might do so once a month or so when it is full of recyclables, is much higher.
“Our driver says that just eyeballing it, it appears to him that the total participation rate is 70 to 74 percent,” Boyles said of the recycling truck operator.
Yokeley, a strong proponent of curbside recycling in Mount Airy from its earliest origins, said he is pleased with the numbers of recyclers, whether constant vs. sporadic.
“I think 50-percent participation is pretty good,” he said. Of the nearly 75 percent of those who recycle intermittently, Yokeley added, “I think that’s pretty good, too.”
“Our set-out rate rose very quickly to 50 percent and it’s held steady every since,” Boyles said. After only 40 percent of households were reported to be taking advantage of the program for February, the figure rose to 50 percent in March and has remained near that level.
Money Paid For Items
An unexpected bonus to the curbside program is that the city government has been paid for items collected by the company that picks up and processes them, Sonoco Recycling Inc. This has amounted to more than $3,000 for the first six months.
“The original plan was just for them to pick it up and not charge anything,” Yokeley said of the deal in which the company transports the items from Mount Airy.
“We’re paid for it,” he said. “I think that’s just an added benefit.”
Boyles explained that the agreement with Sonoco was to include payments to the city if the weighted average of collected materials exceeded a certain level, and that seems to have been the case.
This is an extra financial plus for a program that has cost less to implement, including all the required equipment and facility expenses, than budgeted.
The volume of materials received also has been higher than anticipated. The projected figure for the first year was 478 tons, which will end up at around 485 tons based on present curbside patterns.
New Push Planned
Though city officials are happy about the base recycling participation being near the 50-percent mark, they want to maximize the program.
“I think that’s better than I expected, but I think there’s room for improvement,” Boyles said.
To that end, the public works tandem of Yokeley and Graham favor the formation of a recycling advisory committee to give the program a boost.
“I believe with this committee that we can increase participation,” Graham said.
Yokeley said a proposal for that group will be presented to the full board of commissioners during one of its two meetings in September.
It is unclear at this point what specific steps the new committee would pursue in order to hike participation.
Yokeley said one likely objective would be reacquainting the public with the fact the recycling program exists and providing information regarding the types of items accepted.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.