Without donuts and groceries as rewards, New Haven residents will have to recycle just to save the earth.
Negotiations between the city and RecycleBank, a New York-based company, to financially reward residents for recycling, fell through after RecycleBank could not secure funding that met the city’s standards, City Sustainability Director Christine Eppstein-Tang said Monday.
“We finally realized that we were not able to get the financing at the rate they had initially relied on,” she said. “RecycleBank could not afford the contract and the city could not afford [it].”
Chief Administrator Rob Smuts ’01 said the city had been discussing a three-part change to the city’s current recycling system with RecycleBank for little more than a year. The changes included incentivizing recycling by offering coupons for donuts or groceries to residents who increased their recycling rates; enabling residents to recycle plastics, newspapers and glass together; and providing residents with larger recycling bins and smaller trash containers.
Since a contract had not been signed, the city did not lose money from the broken agreement, Eppstein-Tang said. Though RecycleBank is no longer involved in the city’s recycling overhaul, the city is moving forward with the initiative and has eliminated only resident rewards from the program.
Earlier this year the Board of Aldermen sent a final contract to RecycleBank to be signed and city officials expected the program to be started by April.
But RecycleBank never sent the contract back, Smuts said.
After some “back-and-forth” between New Haven and RecycleBank about, among other things, the specific type of trash bins RecycleBank would be providing, Eppstein-Tang said the city decided a contract with RecycleBank was no longer viable. The city wanted RecycleBank to front the initial cost of the new bins but not purchase the bins the city wanted, Smuts said.
“We have a little bit of a bad taste in our mouth from their inability to do what they had promised they were going to do,” he said.
RecycleBank officials did not return multiple requests for comment Monday.
Problems first arose earlier this year when Toter Inc., the North Carolina company that would have provided the bins, and RecycleBank could not finalize the purchase of the appropriate bins, but Eppstein-Tang and Smuts said they did not think that was why the contract between the city and RecycleBank fell through.
Jim Pickett, Toter’s vice president of Eastern regional sales, declined comment on behalf of the company.
New Haven’s recycling overhaul will be next week when the city will start phasing in new trash bins in the Westville neighborhood, Smuts said. All the Westville bins will be replaced by the end of the summer, he said, and replacing all the city’s residential trash bins will cost about $1.6 million over three years. The city has not yet secured funding for the whole initiative, Smuts said.
As bins are replaced, city officials will monitor changes in residents’ recycling rates and evaluate whether a rewards program is necessary, Smuts said, adding that other cities across the nation, such as Stamford, Conn., and Baltimore, have increased residents’ recycling rates without partnerships with RecycleBank.
Being able to recycle plastics, newspapers and glass together might make a difference, said C.J. May, Yale recycling coordinator, but said educating residents about recycling is equally important.
“[The city] hasn’t done much education for the public in recent years,” he said. “A component of the budget is going to have to be spent on the bins and a component is going to have to be spent on education.”
Eppstein-Tang said meeting the city’s goal of increasing the city’s nine percent recycling rate is one of her priorities. She said she hopes New Haven can meet Connecticut’s goal of increasing recycling rates to 58 percent by 2024.