Mayor Chris Beutler and community leaders today announced that an ordinance to add corrugated cardboard and other paper products to the list of materials that are diverted from the landfill will be introduced to the City Council Monday. The proposed ordinance is part of the City's RecycleLincoln! Initiative, which seeks to double Lincoln's recycling rate by 2020.
Attending a news conference today were City Council Chair Leirion Gaylor Baird; Jim Klein, President of the Lincoln Solid Waste and Recycling Association; and two of the Co-Chairs of RecycleLincoln! -- Paul Jarrett of Bulu Box and Chelsea Johnson of the League of Conservation Voters. The other RecycleLincoln! Co-Chairs are Marc LeBaron of Lincoln Industries and City Council member Jane Raybould.
The City and private partners worked together on a public engagement effort to allow residents to demonstrate their support for doubling the City's recycling rate by 2020. More than 1,000 people signed the online petition at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: Recycle Lincoln).
"Businesses, residents and organizations support our call for increased recycling in our community," Beutler said. "We hear their voices and the many others across Lincoln who want us to do more recycling. That's why we will introduce the ordinance to the City Council to implement the RecycleLincoln! plan as City policy. The ordinance change will be accompanied by an extensive public education campaign to build community support and compliance."
Implementation of the ordinance would be delayed until April 2017 to allow for a transition and education period. At that time, corrugated cardboard would be treated similar to yard waste, tires and appliances, which are currently diverted from the Bluff Road Landfill. Other recyclable materials such as newsprint and office paper would be diverted from the landfill in the future. The ordinance would also require all waste haulers to offer curbside recycling service to residents, apartments and businesses. For those who choose to not purchase curbside service, the City will expand the free recycling drop-off sites to handle more of the targeted recyclables.
Beutler said best management practices have greatly advanced since the current landfill opened in 1988.
"Thirty years ago, leaves and grass, tires, car batteries, appliances and construction demolition waste were all routinely dumped in the landfill," he said. "Today, those materials are diverted to better processing sites. Cardboard is simply the next step in that evolution."
Gaylor Baird said the change be a big step in improving Lincoln's recycling rate. "Lincoln is a national leader in so many ways, but recycling is one area where we must improve if we want to keep moving forward as a 21st-century city," she said. "The RecycleLincoln! plan supports a growing community that values fiscal responsibility and conservation of resources."
Klein said many private refuse haulers have already expanded their business models in anticipation of the changes. "We appreciate being involved in crafting this new policy to ensure the strengths of private haulers are used to their best advantage," said Klein. "We have the personnel and the tools to pick up a wide-variety of materials and deliver them where they need to go efficiently and effectively for the community."
Beutler said diverting cardboard and other paper products from the landfill does have costs, including reduced revenue at the landfill, the expense of collecting and processing the materials and the cost of helping businesses invest in the new system. The costs will add an estimated 85 cents per ton to landfill fees. Because the per capital waste disposal amount is about a ton of waste per year, the changes are expected to cost each resident about 85 cents a year.
"It's a small price to pay to become better stewards of our environment," Beutler said. "We cannot continue to ignore the environmental consequences of burying material that can be recycled. If we want to truly leave a cleaner, greener Lincoln for following generations, we must do our part."
Jarrett demonstrated his support by dropping his 85 cents into a jar at the news conference. "This is a very good day for people in the startup and entrepreneurial community," he said. "Recycling is not just a business enterprise that boosts the local economy, it's a culture that helps Lincoln companies like ours recruit top talent. Increasing recycling in Lincoln sends a message that our community is an innovative and interesting place to live and work."
"In Lincoln, 42 percent of the waste that goes to the landfill is readily recyclable," Johnson said. "Diverting cardboard and other paper products is a great first step toward our goal."
A public hearing on the proposed ordinance is tentatively scheduled for the evening City Council meeting July 25. More information about recycling is available at recycle.lincoln.ne.gov.