Officials say participation during the first year of curbside recycling in Danville has been encouraging and recycling overall in Boyle County is on the rise.
"Overall, it has been remarkable for a first-year curbside program," said Ron White with M&M Sanitation.
Participation averaged 32 percent for the first two months of the program, November and December of 2010, which was higher than most expected, and steadily rose to more than 50 percent. The participation rate grew as high as 56 percent in August and was 51 percent last month.
Boyle County Solid Waste Coordinator Donna Fechter, who still receives money from the city to run the educational effort before and after the curbside program began, has been happy but not surprised with how many people have taken advantage of curbside recycling.
Fechter said the actual number of people participating is at least what it was in August and possibly higher. That is because many residents don't put their cans out every time there is a pickup day and may take as long as six weeks to fill up their container.
White said it is realistic to hope for 65-70 percent participation after three years considering the fast start. He recognizes that starting curbside recycling often means officials have to bite the bullet politically but said several other cities have been closely watching what goes on in Danville.
"It's a success story," White said.
Fechter acknowledged there have been some issues, including months of lag time before people could get smaller containers and problems with containers occasionally not getting picked up. She said most of the problems could be chalked up to the novelty of the program, and overall she thinks M&M has done a good job.
Rows of recycling containers along city streets is an uplifting sight after 20 years of working hard to get people to believe, Fechter said.
"It's pretty wonderful to see that this many people care, but this community has always cared," Fechter said.
While recycling participation in the city has been robust, statistics for solid waste collection are puzzling.
In 2010, city households produced 5,560 tons of solid waste. With the amount picked up so far in 2011 at 5,221 tons, it would appear the city will easily surpass last year’s number even with more than 800 tons of recyclables theoretically removed from the stream.
Fechter said the large carts mean many people have probably taken the opportunity to throw away bulky items. She said the mild fall probably has meant more people doing major cleaning projects and putting on the curb more of what they would have taken to one of the convenience centers.
Fechter expects the numbers for solid waste to decrease, likely significantly, in 2012, something White said he will work on with her by ramping up efforts to show people about diversion of solid waste.
Although she has been involved with teaching people about curbside recycling, Fechter also has been busy running the county's solid waste and recycling collection with less money than she had in the past when the city and county were basically equal partners in funding the recycling center.
The center cut one staff position and has shuffled hours at the convenience centers, but Fechter said they have mostly managed to hold their own since losing a majority of the city's allocation.
"The Boyle County Recycling Center is doing well, and we are very optimistic about a bright future here," Fechter said. "You've just constantly got to keep working and educating people."
Fechter said so far the center has processed only about 100 tons of materials less than last year. The county convenience centers took in 635 tons of recyclable materials through the first three quarters of 2010 and have taken in 528 tons during the same time period in 2011.
Using grant money, Fechter was able to establish curbside recycling programs in both Junction City and the subdivisions of Old Bridge and Riverview Estates late this year, in addition to the existing program in Perryville.
Old Bridge and Riverview Estates are at 36 and 16 percent participation rates respectively, with Junction City still in the single digits.
Fechter said she will continue working hard to make sure those numbers increase, particularly in Junction City, where she noted the uniqueness of starting a curbside recycling program where there isn't curbside solid waste pickup. She hopes to have participation up to 20 percent there next June.
Branching out to handle recycling for more businesses and the schools has helped keep the materials coming.
The recycling center now does pickup or has trailers at Boyle County and Danville schools, Kentucky School for the Deaf, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, and Centre College, where the amount of material recycled has gone from 43 tons in 2005 to 62 last year.
Perhaps the biggest success story has been Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center.
The recycling center has worked with the hospital before, but this March stationed a trailer for recyclables there for the first time. Fechter credited teamwork among leaders at the hospital for the more than 43 tons of recyclables collected there since March.