Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates shows off his new recycling cart outside his home. Photos: Tracey Taylor

A new era in recycling has begun in Berkeley with the introduction of light blue, split carts which carry paper waste in one side and bottles and cans in the other.

Mayor Tom Bates held a press conference outside his home on Ward Street this morning to unveil the new carts which replace the dark blue boxes currently in use. The new carts have already started to appear on curbsides and a total of 36,000 of them will be delivered to Berkeley residents in single family homes over the next month.

Seven new trucks designed to handle the new carts are also now in use — the trucks are also divided into two sections, the larger of which holds paper and cardboard materials.

Berkeley’s recycling program has been managed by the Ecology Center since the early 1970s. Executive Director Martin Bourque said the new carts, which are modeled on those being used in Marin, offered three key advantages: reducing litter, reducing worker injuries and deterring poachers. “With the blue bins which are loaded manually, workers on some routes were having to lift up to 10,000 lbs a day,” he said.

New trucks are handling the new carts

Accessing materials is more difficult than from an open box which might, Bourque said, put off potential poachers. The lid of the new cart is also printed with an advisory that the material contained in the cart is city property. Each compartment of the new carts has double the capacity of the old boxes. The closed carts also keep materials dry.

Mayor Bates said the carts represented a breakthrough. “They are one of the tools we need to be a zero-waste city.”

As part of the city’s Climate Action Plan, Berkeley’s goal is to achieve zero waste by 2020. Waste sent to the landfill decreased 40% between 2000 and 2009, a reduction of more than 47,000 tons of waste.

Multi-family homes will receive two carts, one blue one for bottles and a brown one for paper. Residents who want to keep their old blue boxes may do so, said Bourque, but if they put them out on the curb they will be taken away on garbage collection day.

Berkeley’s recycling program is regarded as one of the most well run in the country. However Bourque had a message for the city’s residents: “We are not trying to make people recycle more, we want them to waste less.”

Visit the Ecology Center for full information on the new carts and curbside recycling questions.

Update, 21.33: Reader Alicia helpfully points to the June 29 recommendation document to Berkeley City Council regarding the purchase agreement and loan agreement relating to the new split recycling carts which shows that the estimated cost of the new carts was $2,507,310.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...