Buffalo considering incentives to improve recycling rate

Jul 29, 2016

The City of Buffalo will continue its weekly recycling collections under a new contract approved by the Common Council this week.

In looking at recycling, city officials considered alternate week collections also because it would have saved about $3.5 million over the five years of the contract. Instead, the decision was made to keep weekly collections for just under $3 million a year with the company Modern. The new contract kicks in January 1.

Buffalo is switching to another recycling company as of Jan. 1, 2017.
Credit File photo

The city is also looking at various programs and incentives to increase recycling, as it struggles to get the garbage collection fund to balance, instead of being around $2 million a year in the red. It's unclear what those incentives may be.

Recycling rates in the city have generally been poor for many years. The city said its rate was 23 percent in 2014, though that number has been debated. A campaign called "34 and more," which refers to the national rate of 34 percent, was started to get more residents recycling.

Council member Richard Fontana is a strong proponent of recycling and says the city wants to make it easy to fill the green totes and the blue totes.

"[We have] the best totes that are out there, the best possible recycling service out there that we can get. Now, it's the residents' turn to come forward and recycle even more. I'm not talking about the people that fill up their tote every week. I don't want you calling me, saying I fill up my tote every week. I do the same thing," said Fontana.

"But, for the residents that are not recycling or recycling very little, now is the time to recycle more so we can continue to move forward to do this in the future."

Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak says the city recycles just over 14 percent of trash, around 15,000 tons, and diverts around 26 percent of everything, some at the curb and some later in the process. He says prices for recyclable materials aren't as high as they were, but they also save the $36 a ton charge for dumping debris into a landfill. The electronics have to be taken to a city facility on Seneca Street.

"It's been a challenge because I don't think the market was ready for the volume that came its way. I know there have been some proposals through state government to actually assist in those programs. The materials used to be worth a little bit more and that kind of fell off," Stepniak said.

Albany is planning to kick in some cash to help with the costs of recycling electronic waste, including  TVs, computers, printers and other devices. Stepniak says the city is looking at programs for education on recycling and possibly incentives.