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Recycling program deemed successful (video)

March 5, 2013 at 8:03 p.m.
Updated March 5, 2013 at 9:06 p.m.

City of Victoria employee Tracey Westbrook runs the gauntlet of recycling containers on Gayle Street. Westbrook has noticed great participation in the recycling program as he guides his truck through the neighborhoods.

The crunch of glass jars and plastic bottles rattled off the aluminum roof at the recycling center on George Street like gunshots.

By 1 p.m., Victoria's recycling truck had dropped off two loads, an estimated eight tons. Two men rushed to gather them in the green containers to ship to Waste Management's recycling facility in Houston.

While the heap of cardboard, plastic bags and other recyclables prove Victorians are taking advantage of the year-old curbside recycling program, the sight of the occasional ice chest or coffee maker is a sure sign there's more learning to do.

However, Victoria's solid waste and environmental department officials said the city is on track and doing well.

Environmental Services Director Darryl Lesak said the city has maintained about 73 percent participation during the recycling program's first year, crushing their expectations of 40 percent participation.

"It's way more successful than we thought we'd be," Lesak said.

Natalie Buske, 28, of Victoria, said the 96-gallon, green and yellow carts picked up at her curb every two weeks makes recycling more accessible.

Before the service began in February 2012, she had to load up her children and recyclables to make special trips to the old drop-off center on Huvar Street.

"I do what I can," Buske said. "It's not all going to be sitting in a landfill."

During the past year, the city collected 2,834 tons of recyclables, with a monthly average of 257 tons, according to a report from the environmental services department.

While garbage rates overshadow recycling, the garbage service has not peaked the 1,835 tons collected in January 2012.

Lesak said the purpose of the program is to add more life to the city's landfill. During the past year, he estimated that six days have been saved. Although it may seem small, he said it's a start.

With Victoria school district jumping on board and at least 57 commercial customers through Waste Management, Lesak is optimistic for the future.

Lesak attributed the garbage rates to growth.

"We've seen it go up because of the increase in population," Lesak said. "As recycling goes up, so did the garbage."

With more than 19,800 recycling carts out, he hopes the averages settle out.

"Saving the landfill is important to the city long term," he said. "We'll continue to push to keep as much trash out of the landfill as possible."

Solid Waste Manager Trey Torres said he wishes the city had adopted the program years ago.

While getting it rolling was a learning process, he said they looked toward Houston and San Antonio to learn the "dos and don'ts" of the service, particularly where route scheduling was concerned.

"It gets heavy from time-to-time," Torres said. "But residents are still asking for additional trash carts."

He said the city tries to get those customers to opt for an additional recycling cart rather than one for garbage. The city estimates that 80 percent of what is discarded in trash is actually recyclable.

"Whether it's one item or 10 items, they're still doing their part," Torres said.

Buske said she has continued to fill her cart every two weeks. Her sister, who also lives in Victoria, invested in a second cart.

Before curbside service, Buske would pick one or two items to recycle, mostly old newspapers and aluminum cans.

These days, she's happy to "smoosh" it down to get every piece in her cart.

"Everybody wants to do their part," she said.



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