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Asheville recycling about to get much easier

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2/29/2012 - Asheville recycling about to get much easier
by Joel Burgess - Asheville Citizen Times

 ASHEVILLE -- In a city of enthusiastic recyclers, the process can still be burdensome.

As of last year, 80 percent of city residents recycled, the top percentage in the state, according to a study done by the N.C. School of Government in Chapel Hill.

But getting the recycling to the curb can mean spilled bottles, paper blown down the street and having to tote multiple bins.

The one member of her family who really likes recycling day, resident Gretchen Lewis told City Council on Tuesday, is her dog Mannie.

"He goes around and pulls all the cardboard out of boxes when I'm walking him," she said.

That all will change beginning next month with a new $1 million city recycling program that gives residents large, blue 95-gallon recycling containers similar to municipal trash cans, something for which Lewis praised the council.

"It is something we should all be proud of and excited about doing," she said.

The cans, which will take the place of several smaller bins and in which residents can put even more types of recyclables, will be delivered to the city's 27,500 households March 5-30.

The cost is an additional 55 cents per month that is tacked onto each household's water bill.

In making recycling easier and expanding which items are taken, the city's goal is to reduce what gets dumped, extending the life of the landfill and cutting overall costs to residents, said Maggie Ullman, energy coordinator in the city's Office of Sustainability.

A 2010 pilot program of 720 Asheville households showed 54 percent more items were recycled than had previously gone into the garbage, said Ullman.

Of that pilot group, 93.5 percent of residents said it was more convenient.

"This way, you don't have to juggle and balance and spill your recycling all over the sidewalk, like I do," she said.

Items not previously taken include aluminum pie tins and trays, boxes that contained juice or broth, milk cartons and plastics numbered 1-7. Even households that have not received bins yet can begin recycling these items, said Ullman.

"If it's plastic and has a recycling symbol, pitch it in." she said.

The program was not universally popular. During discussions last year, Mayor Bellamy questioned why the city should spend more money on recycling when Asheville already had a top rate in the state.

But a majority of council members said the reduction in waste hauled to the landfill was worth it.

Councilman Chris Pelly, who was elected in November and did not vote on the new program, praised the move Tuesday and asked if it could be expanded to commercial customers.

"I am really excited to see this and wonder if you saw the letter I got from a small business owner who wanted this option," Pelly said.

But Bellamy said it was a bad idea for the city to compete with new commercial recycling businesses.

City Manager Gary Jackson also emphasized that it is a service covered by a fee, which businesses will not pay.

"We would have to have a fee structure to cover that," he said.

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