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Buffalo goes green with revamped recycling program

Buffalo property owners will see big changes in recycling by Oct. 1.

The ubiquitous tiny blue boxes will be replaced by larger 65-gallon dark green recycling bins. The black lids on the bins will be put to good use. They will be constant reminders to property owners that recycling will no longer be picked up each week. Collections will occur every two weeks citywide by early fall.

"The black lid will allow us to put a sticker on top of it that lets everybody know exactly what day their recycling day is," said City Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak.

Green was the color of choice for the new bins, because they accentuate the environment-friendly features of the city's revamped program. New vehicles will be fuel-efficient. Crews will begin a single-stream recycling system that doesn't require them to sort materials at curbs.

"This is all about green," Stepniak told Common Council members Tuesday. "Everything in this contract is green."

The city is buying 70,000 new totes. Each container will hold more than three times the volume of recyclables that can be fit into the small blue bins.

What's more, the lids will prevent papers from blowing all over neighborhoods. By some estimates, as much as one-third of all recyclables placed in the unlidded boxes ended up on streets and sidewalks. Stepniak said in addition to their vulnerability to high winds, the bins were easy to knock over.

The procedural changes, coupled with a recycling-awareness program that will target both homeowners and businesses, aim to boost Buffalo's embarrassing recycling rates. The city currently recycles no more than 8 percent of all household waste.

Public works officials are cautiously optimistic that the rate could double within a year. The city typically collects about 8,500 tons in household recyclables annually. Stepniak estimated that Buffalo would save $500,000 if it could collect 14,000 tons in recyclables.

Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto said some people have asked about recycling in Buffalo's non-Olmsted parks, including neighborhood parks. Stepniak said the city is buying see-through wire mesh trash bins that will be placed in parks and picked up on a regular basis. The bins should be in place this summer.

The city is finalizing a five-year contract with Allied Waste Services, the company that currently collects Buffalo's recyclables. Stepniak is seeking Council approval of a short-term extension of Allied Waste's existing pact until the agreement can be completed.

The city originally planned on launching the new recycling program last March. The time line was later moved to May. Stepniak said some complicated logistical issues delayed implementation.

He said he's hopeful that the improved program will be introduced citywide by mid-September. In a worst case scenario, he said, the program should be operational by Oct. 1.


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