The Auburn City Council approved a grant agreement between Auburn Environmental Services Department (AES) and The Recycling Partnership, a Georgia-based company, at its meeting this week.
Grant funds total $175,200 and will be used to educate residents who participate in the city’s curbside single-stream recycling program as well as to purchase up to 2,000 additional single-stream recycling carts. The Recycling Partnership will also give $150,000 in in-kind services for educational materials.
“What their (The Recycling Partnership) team will do, they’re going to come in and meet with us and strategize communication that we can use to get out to the public,” AES Director Tim Woody said. “Postcards, digital communications, like apps … We’re trying to move forward that way and help to ensure that the materials we’re collecting are as clean as possible, which helps with the processor and again, just to make it convenient for the customers.”
As of early February, the city finished rolling out the new recycling program, delivering carts to all eligible residents who did not opt out of the program. The city had hoped to complete the roll-out in January, but inclement weather delayed some cart deliveries until early this month.
Woody said he is confident the program will be beneficial to the city and its residents.
“Studies will tell you, if it’s more convenient, people will participate,” he said. “When more people participate, typically that leads to more recyclables being recycled. More recycling means less recyclables being taken to the landfill where you’re paying to throw it away.”
Under the old system, Auburn citizens sorted their own materials prior to pick-up and could only recycle plastics numbers one and two (water bottles, soda bottles, dish detergent). Single-stream allows for increased leniency in terms of what is able to be recycled.
“Generally, if it’s one through seven plastics, any type of paper — mixed paper, newspaper, magazines — things of that nature that we used to not pick up at curbside, now we do,” Woody said. “Instead of having three or four stackable bins, you have one container, and you can put all your materials in that one single container.”
Since its start in 2017, the program has been successful.
“In 2017 we had about 1,300 tons of recycling, and just by adding single-stream in December of 2017 through September of 2018, we had an increase of almost 360 tons just in that short period of time,” Woody said. “Prior to that, we only increased about one percent per year.”
In 1987, Auburn became the first city in the state to have a curbside recycling program. As times changed, so did recycling practices.
Initially, Woody said, Auburn was unable to adopt single-stream recycling due to a lack of a materials recovery facility in the area that could process single-stream material.
In 2014, AES partnered with Pratt Industries Recycling in Columbus, Georgia, and three years later, started rolling out single-stream recycling. The department received two grants from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management in 2017 and 2018 valued at $288,000 and $350,000, respectively. The grants allowed the city to purchase 12,600 single-stream carts as part of the new initiative.
Once the paper products are received, they are sent to a Pratt Industries plant in Conyers, Georgia, where they are sorted and then turned into various other paper products, Woody said. All other single-stream materials are sent to a Pratt center in Columbus where, according to a company spokesperson, they are sorted, baled and then sold to various clients.
With facilities in more than 25 states, Pratt Industries is the fifth largest corrugated packing company in the country, according to its website.
Now that single-stream recycling is fully in action, Woody offers a bit of advice to Auburn residents.
“Rinse your soda cans out, your juice cans — we ask that. It really helps the process. Only put things into the bins that are recyclable and contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to take the lids off of your bottles,” he said.