February 10, 2011 2:37 PM
We used to live in a throwaway society. Throw away bottles and cans. Toss out the newspapers. Out of sight and out of mind.
Except that all of that waste wasn't really gone at all. It got stored in growing landfills or burned in ways that caused air pollution. And all of the energy and materials that went into these products got buried or burned. It made more sense to reuse or recycle.
Madison has embraced that philosophy more than just about any place in the country. We were one of the first places in America to start recycling newspapers. Then we went to recycling for bottle and cans. A few years ago we took the next step and implemented our automated, single-stream system. Because those big blue trucks and the green recycling carts made it so much easier for people to recycle, we saw our recycling rate jump by 30%. And new programs that followed, from the small (plastic bags) to the very large (construction wastes), have added to our success.
Today, Streets Division Recycling guru George Dreckmann and I were able to announce that Madison's diversion rate from landfills is now up to 66%. The national average is only 34%.
And there's more on the way. This year we'll test a cutting edge program to recycle organic waste. If the test is successful, we'll implement the program citywide in a few years. We project the result will get our diversion rate up to maybe 80% of the waste stream. And wouldn't it be cool if we could be the first city in America to get to a near perfectly efficient recycling system?