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I have appreciated the coverage The News has given to Buffalo's recycling program. As the Common Council's chief advocate for recycling, I have had many criticisms of the shortcomings of Buffalo's program.

The city needs to do a better job educating and motivating residents on how to help the program succeed, and media scrutiny can be a key factor in improving public awareness.

In recent months, though, The News has printed what I consider to be false information about Buffalo's recycling program. The News has twice claimed that "only about 5 percent to 10 percent of residents comply by separating recyclable material from garbage." The reality is that every two weeks the city picks up approximately 1,000 to 1,100 tons of solid waste from city residents.

Of this amount, about 100 tons are in the form of paper put out for recycling and another 50 to 75 tons are in the form of commingled cans, glass and plastics. These figures indicate that total recycling of the city residential waste stream by weight is currently in the neighborhood of 15 percent.

Perhaps The News has confused this figure with the percentage of residents who actively recycle -- also known as the participation rate. The participation rate is likely to be far higher than 15 percent because only part of the city's waste stream is currently being treated as recyclable.

Working from the city's tonnage figures, if the average recycler puts out half of his or her waste by weight each week in the form of recyclables, the current participation rate would be about 30 percent. A lower percentage of recyclables would translate into an even higher participation rate.

The actual participation rate is unknown since no survey has been done since the recycling program went citywide. I am working with the Buffalo Environmental Task Force and the Department of Street Sanitation to develop a survey that will establish baseline figures for participation in the program.

I am sending this letter because people's perceptions have a significant impact on their actions. Human beings want to be part of a winning effort. If I think that only 5 percent of my neighbors are taking part in the program, I might assume that it is a failure and that my effort in recycling would be futile.

The reality is much different. Recycling is working in Buffalo. It is saving the taxpayers money, and it is protecting our environment from the degradation of air, land and water that results from waste disposal.

Common Council Member, Fillmore District
City of Buffalo

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