A grass-roots organization wants to see more recyclables going into the city's new green totes.
Members of the newly formed Buffalo Recycling Alliance said they want to help the city encourage recycling and reduction of waste by raising awareness.
"We're at kind of an exciting moment, where we have seen a lot of progress lately," said Sam Magavern, co-director of the Partnership for the Public Good, one of the founding members of the city's efforts.
"We think once people learn how easy recycling is, and how beneficial it is in saving taxpayer money, protecting the environment and creating jobs, we will meet the national average and then exceed it."
The city rolled out larger recycling totes at the beginning of the year, and with more items now accepted for recycling, the city has seen rates quickly double from 8 percent to 16 percent. But that still lags far behind the 34 percent national average.
The new group plans to speak to block clubs, event planners and business associations and to publish informational materials with the goal of encouraging green practices. The other founding members are Buffalo First, Sierra Club Niagara Group, Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the Olmsted Center for Sight.
Magavern said the group also wants the city's recycling regulations and policies strengthened. Under state law, cities are supposed to require recycling from all users, but in Buffalo only businesses and multifamily residences are required to do so, and enforcement is lax.
Dan Genco, Olmsted's director of manufacturing, said cost savings in recycling are a win-win for everyone. The Olmsted Center for Sight employs five people, including three who are legally blind, to shred and recycle office waste picked up from area businesses. The program is a partnership with Great Lakes Record Storage in Hamburg.
"Our customers find most of what's in their Dumpsters in a commercial or office setting is paper waste, and by recycling it, they save tipping charges," said Genco, Olmsted's director of manufacturing.
"So it's not just the right thing to do because it employs blind people, but because it saves you money."
Members of the group said the city could save up to $1.8 million if recycling rates reached the national average.
"That's money that could be used to hire teachers, police officers, sweeping the streets, community centers and support for the cultural arts," said Rahwa Ghirmatzion, executive director of Ujima Theatre.
Lynda H. Schneekloth, who is chairwoman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group, said even recycling just aluminum cans reduces harmful pollution from the processing of the cans and rain forest destruction caused by the extraction of bauxite, a source of aluminum.
Brian Smith, program director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said communities across the country are coming up with innovative ways to expand recycling.
"Towns have increased composting by requiring leaves to go in paper bags, have set up permanent facilities to discard household hazardous waste and pharmaceutical drugs, and formed partnerships with schools to recycle," Smith said.
The Buffalo Recycling Alliance's monthly meetings will be open to the public. The first will be at 5:30 p.m. June 6 in the offices of the Community Foundation, 712 Main St.