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NR recycling program goes a little more green

Marie Barriault-Bannink displays one of the new recycling bins that will be used as part of the city's curbside program.

Green recycling bins will start popping up along New Richmond curbs in the near future.

The city has decided to abandon its current recycling program, which requires residents to purchase plastic bags to place recyclables at the curb.

New Richmond has offered curbside recycling for at least 20 years, according to city officials. Residents have always been required to use the special bags to participate.

Over the years, however, many communities have switched to a bin system rather than the bag system. City Clerk Joe Bjelland said New Richmond was the last area community that offered organized collection to require bags for recycling.

But New Richmond recently received news that they will gain a grant, which allowed the community to purchase green, 18-gallon recycling bins. About 100 are now available at the Civic Center for residents to pick up and start using.

"We're getting grant money to cover part of the cost of the bins," Bjelland said.

Now, instead of spending $9 for 100 bags, Bjelland said residents will be charged $5 for each bin. The bins should last many years.

"People can still use the plastic bags until they're gone," Bjelland explained. "Stephens Sanitation will continue to pick up stuff that's in bags."

Jennifer Havens, recycling specialist for St. Croix County, said the change in New Richmond's recycling program was the result of earlier discussions about the cost effectiveness and success of the current system.

Havens said officials hope the new system will result in more recycling activity in New Richmond, along with a lower overall cost to residents.

The most recent recycling activity report from 2008 indicates that 715 tons of recyclables were collected in the city.

That compares to 3,210 tons in Hudson and 931 tons in the Town of Hudson.

"I does look a little light in terms of recycling in New Richmond," Havens said.

Part of the reason for the low numbers could be the inconvenience of having to use plastic bags for the curbside program. A bin program is usually viewed as more user friendly, she said.

"I'll be surprised if we don't see growth in the numbers," she said. "Convenience is a factor and the bins are easy to store."

Havens also noted that getting rid of the recycling bags will also help the environment, as those bags will no longer be sent to the landfill.

"The bags do add to the waste stream at some point," she said.

With any change in a recycling program, Havens said, the shift gives the community a chance to promote participation in recycling again. That promotional boost should help participation as well.

"When nothing ever changes, people get complacent," Havens said. "This will help bring attention to recycling again."

The city contracts with Stephens Sanitation to pick up recycling left at the curb. The recycling trucks pick up recycling in half the community on one Saturday, then complete the remaining half the following Saturday.

Pick-up days for the recycling program will not change as a result of the switch to bins.

Stephens Sanitation will also continue to pick up the same recyclables, including plastic, glass bottles, jars, aluminum, steel food containers, newspapers, magazines, ad slicks, cereal boxes, corrugated cardboard, waste oil in a sealed container and used automotive batteries that are not leaking acid.

The city will continue to allow residents to drop off recyclable materials at the New Richmond Recycling Center, 215 N. Fifth St., on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon.

For more information about the city's recycling program, contact the city office at 246-4268.