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New recycling program looks like a success after six months.

Byline: Scott Maben The Register-Guard

Those big, blue recycling carts rolled out late last year apparently jump-started Eugene-Springfield recyclers.

Customers of the metro area's largest hauler recycled 4.3 million pounds more in the first half of the year than they did in the first half of 2003. That's a 30 percent increase.

"This community was already doing a tremendous amount of recycling, so to get to 30 percent I thought was pretty astounding," Sanipac General Manager John Hire said Wednesday.

Most other Oregon communities that have switched to unsorted recycling, called commingling, have seen a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in the amount of recyclable materials collected.

Sanipac, which serves about 80 percent of residential customers in Eugene and all of Springfield, collected 9,386 tons of paper products, cardboard, plastics, tin and aluminum from January through June. That's 2,189 tons more than in the first half of last year.

Alex Cuyler, Eugene's solid waste and recycling analyst, said he's thrilled with the increase.

"I'm really encouraged by it," Cuyler said. "Lots of people anecdotally are telling me they're putting more things into the recycling containers because it's so much easier."

The quality of recyclables sent to market is higher as well, he said, because the carts keep materials clean and dry.

The 90-gallon carts replaced curbside bins for all recyclable materials except glass, which must be picked up separately to prevent broken glass from contaminating paper products.

People sometimes toss garbage into the carts. The trash ends up getting thrown out after Sanipac delivers the loads to SP Recycling in Clackamas. The plant separates recyclables and sends them to paper and cardboard mills, tin can makers and other industries.

When open bins were still in use, Sanipac drivers often would leave the trash on the curb, but now they have no idea if customers are using the closed recycling carts for unacceptable materials, Hire said.

That residual waste from Sanipac's loads ranges from 2.9 percent to 3.1 percent, Hire said. Last year, SP Recycling, owned by three newspaper chains, said its overall residual waste rate was about 2 percent.

Sanipac spent $3 million to launch commingled collections, including the expense of seven new trucks and 46,000 carts. It's recouping that investment through reduced labor and fuel costs. Recycling pickups went from weekly to every other week, and drivers now spend less time covering a route.

Pete Chism, the county's waste management specialist, said preliminary estimates show a 2 percent to 3 percent drop in the amount of garbage going to the county's Short Mountain Landfill so far this year. A full analysis won't be done until commingling has been in effect a year, Chism said.

While most Sanipac customers use the roll carts, a couple hundred opted not to use them at first, complaining they took up too much space. But new customers don't seem to mind the size, Hire said.

Andy Maxon of Eugene said he and his wife rejected their large cart at first, but then went back to it after a few weeks. Now they like it, especially after realizing how much recyclables they could get into the cart.

"It was really something," Maxon said.

RECYCLING ON THE RISE

Sanipac says collection of commingled recyclables has led to a 30 percent increase in recycling among its Eugene and Springfield customers in the first half of the year.

Month 2003* 2004*

January 1,275 1,810

February 1,151 1,305

March 1,105 1,448

April 1,175 1,607

May 1,227 1,506

June 1,264 1,710

Six-month total 7,197 9,386

*Collections in tons
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Title Annotation:Environment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 8, 2004
Words:609
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