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City residents set monthly record for amount of recycling collected

Besides the high temperatures, March saw another kind of record in the City of Buffalo.

City residents hit a recycling milestone, with crews picking up more than 1,000 tons of material at the curb, a figure higher than any other month on record, according to the city.

City officials thanked residents during a news conference Tuesday at Hennepin Park in Lovejoy, hailing the results of a recently implemented initiative that saw residents get new green recycling totes. More types of materials are also being accepted.

"More people in Buffalo are recycling, and more people are recycling more," Mayor Byron W. Brown said.

The city, as a whole, used to have a paltry recycling rate -- as low as 6 percent of material placed at the curb was recyclable, which was about one-fifth the national average.

The rate has increased to about 16 percent, Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak said.

Overall, recycling is up in each of the city's five garbage districts, Stepniak said.

The city had planned to implement a twice-a-month pickup schedule at the beginning of March but put that off after seeing that residents were recycling more.

Officials are still evaluating recycling data -- information obtained from tags inside the totes that transmit a radio frequency that helps track how much material each container holds when picked up by crews. They did not indicate Tuesday when or if an every-other-week pickup may start.

Projected over a full year, Stepniak estimated the new program could save about $1.4 million. So far, it has saved the city about $300,000, he said.

Savings come from the revenue the city receives for recyclable materials -- anywhere from $15 to $30 per ton -- as well as a decrease in the cost of landfilling garbage.

The city recently put out a request for proposals for a marketing campaign tied to the recycling initiative. The city expects to select a firm to conduct the campaign in the next couple of weeks, Stepniak said.

Both Brown and Stepniak also attributed some of the increase in recycling to media reports about the initiative.