Martin Bourque, Executive Director of the Ecology Center, which has the contract for residential manages all recycling in Berkeley, sends in this report on the impact of the new split recycling carts which most city residents should now have received. He also addresses many of our readers’ questions and comments. (See the varied views on this issue with Berkeleyside’s previous coverage.)

Our first weeks of collection with carts have demonstrated a 20% lift in recycling tonnage! While that is what we predicted, we are very pleased to see it cross our scales. We have also had a dramatic reduction in poaching calls. Not that it has been eliminated, but the carts have made it harder and slower and therefore more limited.

A few responses to the comments:

  1. These carts have been part of the public discourse on recycling since 2004. There have been numerous noticed opportunities to weigh in on the program from public workshops to Council items to Zero Waste Commission meetings. If you feel strongly about recycling, consumerism, and waste please come out and participate.
  2. Blue has been the obvious and standard recycling color for over two decades. I’m quite sure that no-one has ever complained about the dark blue color of the old bins, and yet their color is bolder still. This sky blue is a natural color from the palette of colors found in your neighborhood any day the sun shines. The light blue was selected as opposed to the dark blue to distinguish it from the City’s dark blue commercial carts to avoid confusion for both residents and collection drivers. Change is hard — in a month it will blend right in.
  3. Most residents do remove their bins (and now carts) from the curb within 24 hours per city code. Perhaps a friendly note would encourage those who do not to make the extra effort. They may not know how much it offends.
  4. For residents who literally have no viable location, an exemption to cart service may be offered. This still requires them to remove their bins or boxes from the curb within 24 hours and alone may not resolve your concerns. This is not an optional service, rather an exemption for legitimate logistical reasons not color preference.
  5. Residents have been demanding increased efficiency. There is no question here, but you cannot have it both ways.  The larger cart means more automation, and less frequent set-outs. It is of course larger. Most residents have commented to us that anything would be less visually offending than the open bins and bags out every week.
  6. If you really do not want to use the cart that is always your option. There are numerous drop-off sites where you can recycle, or you can pay more for a larger garbage can and just send to the landfill. We hope you won’t choose that option and help Berkeley reach its Zero Waste Goals.
  7. I have to disagree that this program is a bad idea, or poorly implemented, or without community involvement.

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