By Tim McCarthy
Residents are getting the hang of recycling, but they must pitch in more bottles, cans and other items to make the program a success.
So said city officials who operate the single-stream program, which allows residents to put all recyclables — bottles and cans, paper products, plastics — into one container and leave it at the curb next to regular trash.
Nineteen percent of Haverhill's trash is goes into the recycling program, just short of the city's goal of 20 percent for this time. Steve Clifford, the city's recycling coordinator, said the "very achievable" goal is to have 30 percent of the city's trash recycled by the end of 2012.
"Obviously it's working," he said. "Now for the people that aren't on board, we have to go out and educate them. Once they're educated, I think it'll be an easy sell."
As the amount of trash recycled increases, so too does the participation rate, with 57 percent of all homes making use of curbside recycling, Clifford said.
He said the city will look into expanding the recycling program in the future, with the addition of pickup for apartments and condos.
City Councilor Colin LePage, who pushed for creation of the single-stream program in 2008, said it must continue to expand in order to save the city money.
"The goal is to recycle as much as possible,'' he said. "We have a lot of potential to do better."
Colin said the city saved $180,000 in waste disposal costs last year with the program, noting future savings will increase as the recycling rate rises.
When items are recycled, the city avoids the cost of having them disposed of as trash. The city also makes money because it sells recyclables for a profit.
In September, the city received a $50,000 state grant to hire two part-time recycling enforcers to determine what areas of the city aren't recycling. The city plans to use their studies to encourage residents to obey the law and put out recyclables.
"If the city picks up your trash, it's mandatory for you to recycle," Clifford said.
Sharon Kishida, the north shore's regional recycling coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, said Haverhill has made great strides in its recycling program over the past year, thanks to the single-stream program.
"It's a fantastic and long overdue change," she said.
Noting education has proven the most effective way of encouraging recycling, she said the city could take punitive measures in the future to instill in residents the importance of recycling. In Davers, she said, workers won't pick up trash at all if there's no recycling container outside a home.
LePage said the ultimate goal is for Haverhill to save $500,000 a year through recycling.