LUMBERTON — Lumberton is getting greener, but it’s not dark green yet.
Four months into the city’s curbside recycling program, Waste Management of Fayetteville reported a participation rate of 60 to 80 percent citywide, according to district manager Pat Kalemba.
Crews collected about 55.6 tons of recycled garbage in April, which saw 16 pick-up days, Kalemba said. In May, that number increased to about 82.9 tons of garbage picked up over 19 collection days. In June, crews picked up about 68.8 tons of recycled garbage over 16 days.
“These collection statistics are strong and compare favorably to Hope Mills and Fayetteville,” Kalembo said. “We feel that, overall, the residents of Lumberton are doing a great job with their recycling program. We have isolated occurrences where carts are contaminated with trash, but we are working with those residents by leaving a notice to remind them to recycle only in the green and yellow cart.”
Kalemba told The Robesonian in April that about nine tons of recyclable material had been collected in the first few days of the program. He said the company anticipated that number to grow to an average of 16 tons per week as residents got used to the program. From April to June, the weight of collections has averaged between 3.47 and 4.36 tons per day.
“It’s kicked off on a very positive note,” said Rob Armstrong, director of Public Works for the city. “… We’ve done some good hard numbers for April, May and June, and hope to have some good numbers in July.”
According to Armstrong, the numbers for recycled waste in June are equal to about 11 percent of the waste thrown into the landfill.
“In volume, it may be greater, since most recyclables don’t weigh as much as household garbage,” he said.
The program, which was approved by the City Council in January and rolled out in April, was a long sought by many residents who are environmentally aware. Lumberton was the third municipality in Robeson County to get a curbside program, following St. Pauls and Pembroke.
Waste Manager delivered 7,600 96-gallon green recycling bins to homes throughout the city, which are collected once every two weeks. The tops of the bins instruct people on what can be placed into them: chipboard and boxboard; paper bags, phone books; catalogs and magazines; newspapers; paper; cardboard; dairy and juice containers; junk mail; glass bottles and jars; office and school paper; cardboard; aluminum cans; and tin and steel cans. Items that cannot be deposited include plastic bags, Styrofoam, Styrofoam packing materials, and food.
Armstrong said that the city is waiting to hit the six-month mark before sending out surveys to get feedback from residents, but so far, the input has been positive.
“It hits all over the page,” he said. “Some folks like recycling so much that they find themselves filling up their recycling can before the two-week turnaround pickup time. … It took some folks time to get used to the every-other-week schedule.”
Annie Kinlaw, of Chestnut Street, uses her recycling bin on a consistent basis and always has it waiting on the curb for crews to collect.
“Every time they come by to pick it up,” she said. “Actually, I have more trash put in it than I do in the other one. … I thought it was a great deal because of the fact that we have so much stuff going into the dump that doesn’t need to go there.”
Kinlaw, who moved to Lumberton from Florence, S.C., a year ago, said she didn’t recycle before moving here.
“They don’t have the curbside service for recycling there. I’d just been putting everything in the regular trash,” she said. “It’s a great thing because they don’t need to be putting all that in the dump and letting it stay there.”
Wanda Edwards, of Saxon Avenue, has a recycling bin at her home but doesn’t use it frequently.
“As of right now I haven’t recycled, but I recycle inside and we sell it ourselves,” she said. “But if I have extra, I put it in there. I haven’t filled it up yet but I really like it and I think it’s a great asset to the city.”
Armstrong said some people have indicated they don’t wish to participate in the program, and have asked for the can to be picked up. Residents are required to keep the cans on their property regardless, he said.
Part of the project included the phasing out of the recycling drop-off centers located at the intersection of Walnut Street and Roberts Avenue, and West Fifth and West Second Streets. Armstrong said both locations have remained open.
“In the process of developing, we’ve opted to keep the drop-off sites open at the Rescue Squad and the church and community center to provide people in the downtown area a place to haul to if they really want to participate in recycling,” he said.