Recycling — a matter of convenience

Bins at convenience stores yielded 13 tons over the past year.
Thursday, March 25, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:20 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

City officials said the bright blue bins located at 33 Columbia convenience stores have done a ton of good to help recycling in the city. Thirteen tons to be exact.

Eleven months into Columbia’s convenience store-based recycling program, 13 tons of soda bottles and cans have been recycled via the 108 bins, according to Angela Gehlert, Columbia’s waste minimization coordinator. Gehlert said because the program has been so successful, it will be expanded during the next year.

“I think the tonnage has been pretty good,” she said. “I think they are being utilized pretty well.”

The recycling program began as an initiative from Businesses United for a Cleaner Columbia, which furnished the bins to encourage alternative recycling sites.

“One of the things that was always missing from the recycling program in Columbia was away-from-home recycling,” said Mark Farnen, vice president of Woodruff Communications, an affiliate of Businesses United for a Cleaner Columbia. “What this program did was make points of recycling available all over Columbia.”

Farnen said the organization tested three different settings for the bins and found that bins located at the point of purchase were used most. The blue bins were created and installed last April.

With pointed tops to attract attention and round slots to restrict passage to drinking containers, the bins collect on average about 600 pounds a week, Gehlert said.

The 13 tons from the convenience-store program is only a slice of the total tonnage of recyclables collected annually by the city.

Overall recycling of containers and fibers, including via the blue bins, curbside and apartment pickup and drop off, is expected to increase by about 1,000 tons — from 6,662 tons in 2003 to a projected 7,500 this year, according to Cynthia Mitchell, landfill and recovery superintendent for the City of Columbia. In 2002, 5,953 tons of recyclables were collected, and in 2001, 4,884 tons.

Mitchell thinks the bins do more than collect — they educate.

“It’s shown people that it can be easy and available,” Mitchell said.

Gehlert said the amount collected weekly from the bins is evidence that the program works, adding that the city will expand the program to include more convenience stores, high-traffic areas and even golf courses.

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