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Recyclable materials list is expanded

In a move to save money and reduce garbage collection, the city has added more types of plastic -- including yogurt containers, toys and lawn furniture -- to its list of materials eligible for weekly recycling pickup.

Since municipal recycling programs started collecting household recyclables at the curb in 1991, they have been limited to those materials recycling companies will buy, which is based on resale demand. Now that demand for plastics is up, the menu expanded, said Brad Rowles, superintendent of public works.

"People since day one -- since 1991 -- have been very frustrated that they couldn't recycle wide-mouth containers," he said.

The increase promises future savings: It costs $33.50 a ton to take garbage to the landfill. The city earns $10 per ton of recyclable material.

So a ton of plastics recycled can equal $43.50 of what Rowles calls "cost avoidance." Even better, he said, the recycling company is a closer drive than the landfill.

"We're very fortunate to have a close place to go to. I'm very pro-recycling," said Rowles. "Nobody likes to pay taxes. The more they recycle, the more we keep out of the landfill. It's like your own little savings account."

Last week, the city began collecting wide-mouth plastic containers marked on the bottom with a triangle recycling symbol from "#1" to "#7."

Also newly accepted is a category of plastics called "mixed rigid plastics" or "MRPs," such as laundry baskets, lawn furniture and plastic buckets.

Plastics not accepted are flower pots and drain pipes, or containers contaminated by oil, antifreeze or medication. Containers with steel handles or toys with steel axles also will not be accepted. "It's got to be, basically, all plastic," Rowles said.

Word seems to be getting out to North Tonawanda's 14,000 homes, although last week there seemed to be a bigger increase in cardboard than plastics. Either way, the more people recycle, the better. "I think it energized people," he said.