New Haven residents hoping for coupons for their recycling still have to wait.
The city’s recycling overhaul — which was approved by the Board of Alderman in November and would provide residents coupons to grocery stores or restaurants for good recycling habits — is delayed because a partner company is struggling to acquire the necessary equipment. Though City Administrative Officer Robert Smuts ’01 declined to comment on the details of the negotiation, he said that the city remains “very interested” in continuing discussions and that if the initiative failed, city officials would immediately look for alternative recycling programs.
Although Mike Mazzaroni, the regional director for the New York-based company that will manage the new recycling program called RecycleBank, said that he hopes the negotiations will finish by the city’s original April deadline, Smut said City Hall no longer has a concrete timeline.
“April would be a tight timeline, but we’re still hoping to meet that,” Mazzaroni said.
The proposal involves a three-part change to the city’s recycling system: a move to single-stream recycling, where plastics, newspapers, and glass no longer have to be recycled separately; the introduction of larger recycling bins and smaller trash cans to encourage recycling instead of throwing away garbage; and the fitting of recycling bins with electronic trackers to determine who would get the coupon rewards.
City officials said they hope these incentives could increase New Haven’s recycling rate, which Ward 9 Alderman Roland Lemar said in November is much lower than some major cities across the nation. He added at the time that the new recycling program would help the city save hundreds of thousands of dollars within the next few years.
Smuts said City Hall completed the move to single-stream recycling last July. But, he added, the new bins and trackers cannot arrive until RecycleBank strikes a deal with the manufacturer, Statesville, N.C.-based Toter Inc. Mazzaroni said that because the financial markets have worsened in general, Toter had to delay negotiations further, which have already lasted 12 to 14 months.
E-mail messages sent Monday to Toter’s representatives was not immediately returned.
Ward 9 Alderman Roland Lemar, who called New Haven recycling rate of 9 percent “abysmal” and “embarrassing” at a City Plan Commission meeting in October, said a move back to the drawing board would be frustrating for city officials.
“This was our primary recycling initiative, our first step,” he said. “Getting this was our first priority, and if for some reason this doesn’t come together, the Board of Aldermen should tackle recycling as soon as possible.”
Since the city’s switch to single-stream recycling in July, Smuts said he had seen a “slight increase” in rates, to 11.9 percent. He added that the city will start a public education initiative about the new recycling program once New Haven receives its bins.
Still, C.J. May, Yale’s recycling coordinator, said that the change in July was superficial and that Elm City residents would only adjust their practices when new containers encouraged them to do so.
In the meantime, City Hall is working on other sustainability initiatives. Later this week, the city will announce the appointment of a director for a new sustainability department within Smut’s office.
Correction: Feb. 9, 2010
An earlier version of this article misidentified the reason for the delay of the arrival of new trash bins for the city’s planned new recycling program. The delay is due to overall market changes in the past year, not financial difficulties for Toter, the bins’ Statesville, N.C.-based manufacturer. Additionally, due to an editing error, the article incorrectly stated that a phone message left at Toter’s office Monday was not returned; though e-mails to Toter’s representatives were not returned, no phone message was left.