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Richmond plans to convert recycling system from bins to larger carts

Richmond plans to convert recycling system from bins to larger carts

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Thousands of Richmond households could get full-size trash cans to use for recycling early next year as part of a new initiative to convert the city from a bin-based recycling system to one using the larger carts.

About 6,000 of the 95-gallon cans will be distributed during the initial phase of the program, which is being made possible by a $420,000 grant from a recycling-focused nonprofit. The first round of carts will focus on neighborhoods with alley trash pickup throughout the city. Recipients will receive postcards in the mail letting them know the carts are coming.

City officials say there will be no fee increase as a result, and the program could save the city money when fully implemented.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on accepting the grant next month, and the rollout of the carts, which will be equipped with electronic tracking tags, is expected to begin shortly thereafter.

“It’ll be citywide by the end of 2015,” said Sharon North, spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Public Works.

Richmond was awarded the grant in August by the Curbside Value Partnership, an Arlington County-based nonprofit sponsored by Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch and other corporations and trade associations with a financial interest in recycled materials.

Karen Bandhauer, project director for the CVP, said the partnership is an example of how a “relatively small amount of private dollars can really spur significant change in the community.”

“It’s making something happen much quicker than it would have happened otherwise,” Bandhauer said. “We think it’s a great example of how the private sector and the public sector can work together and do something that’s really beneficial.”

The CVP website says the first 10 years of the Richmond program would save 143,500 metric tons of equivalent carbon dioxide, which would have the same effect on greenhouse gas emissions as taking 30,211 passenger vehicles off the road, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.

The recovered material also would have an estimated economic value of $6.5 million.

Richmond is one of three initial cities partnering with the nonprofit to boost recycling efforts through a recently launched initiative that grew out of another organization called the Southeast Recycling Development Council. The other cities are Columbia, S.C., and Florence, Ala. A fourth city is expected to be named soon.

“We were looking for communities where we felt like we had a good opportunity to prove this model and have successes,” Bandhauer said.

From the initial funding, $350,000 will be used to purchase carts. An additional $70,000 will be used for an outreach and public relations campaign. The nonprofit will support the implementation with in-kind services valued at $139,000.

The Central Virginia Waste Management Authority administers recycling programs for the Richmond region.

Kim Hynes, executive director of the CVWMA, said the town of Ashland and some localities in the Tri-Cities area already use cart-based recycling, but Richmond will be the largest locality in the region to make the change.

“We’re excited to get it rolling,” Hynes said.

The total cost to roll out the carts to the entire city, about 61,000 households, is estimated at $3.2 million. Although the new recycling program will be more expensive to operate, city officials say it will actually save $26,000 per year by reducing expenses related to solid-waste collection.

“The more they can get out of the waste stream, the less they have to dispose of or haul to a landfill,” Hynes said. “It should help them out quite a bit.”

Pickup days for trash and recycling will not change, according to the city. The new carts will be picked up wherever trash cans are picked up.

Once the program is up and running, the smaller, 18-gallon bins will no longer be emptied.

The new receptacles will be green with blue lids to distinguish them from regular trash cans.

City documents suggest the program will be linked to future efforts to incentivize recycling by charging residents based on how much trash they throw away, also known as pay-as-you-throw, but North said there are no immediate plans to implement that system in Richmond.

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