Mayor Chris Beutler today helped kickoff a campaign to educate the public about recycling cardboard. As of April 1, clean and dry corrugated cardboard will no longer be accepted at the City landfill. In 2017, residents sent 38 million pounds of cardboard to the landfill, making it the single largest recyclable material thrown away.
"Last year, we payed to bury 19,000 tons of cardboard," Beutler said. "But cardboard is in such high demand by paper mills that over $2.3 million could have been injected into our local economy if that cardboard had been recycled. It's estimated that 35 new local jobs could have been created to collect and process the cardboard."
The City Council passed an ordinance last year to divert cardboard from the landfill. The law also requires garbage collectors to offer curbside recycling service available to any home or business that chooses to subscribe. The City is expanding capacity at the free recycling drop-off sites, and recycling centers and haulers will report annually on materials collected and customers served. Those who choose not to recycle will not face City penalties, but garbage collectors may change additional fees to those who put recyclable cardboard in their garbage.
The theme of the educational campaign, "Take it to the Bin," encourages residents to recycle for free at one of the 28 public drop-off sites or subscribe to curbside recycling. The campaign includes public service announcements, broadcast and print advertising, social media posts, community presentations, billboards bus wraps and an updated website. Information at recycle.lincoln.ne.gov includes instructional videos and resources for single-family households, apartment dwellers and managers and businesses.
About half of the waste taken to the landfill comes from Lincoln's commercial and institutional buildings. Incentives for businesses include the Waste Reduction and Recycling Assistance (WRRAP) program, which offers up to $750 in rebates for new or expanded commercial recycling or composting programs. The City is also recognizing local businesses and organizations that have already adopted effective waste reduction and recycling programs. The first "gold level" honorees are the Arbor Day Foundation, Assurity Life Insurance, Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, NeighborWorks Lincoln and Region V Systems.
Mayor Beutler said recycling corrugated cardboard moves the City closer to achieving the goals of two important community initiatives -- the Lincoln Environmental Action Plan (LEAP) and the City's Solid Waste Management Plan.
"This one change -- keeping cardboard out of the landfill -- will be a huge leap forward in meeting our community's goal to substantially increase our City's recycling rate from 21 percent to about 31 percent," he said. "Lincoln will be the first community in Nebraska to take this major step toward a more sustainable future."
The Mayor also thanked the more than 40 garbage and recycling collectors for their involvement, input and leadership in the City's recycling efforts and the educational campaign.
"With the uncertainties of climate change, the City of Lincoln is not leaving its future to chance," Beutler said. "We are taking measures now to increase our recycling rate, reduce greenhouse gases and promote sustainability to guarantee a high quality of life for generations to come."