Curbside recycling now serves half of the U.S. population, providing the most convenient means for households to recycle a variety of materials. While all curbside programs differ, the most commonly included materials are The Big Five: aluminum, glass, paper, plastic, and steel.
Facts about Curbside:
The EPA estimates that 75 percent of what Americans throw in the trash could actually be recycled
Incinerating 10,000 tons of waste creates one job; landfilling 10,000 tons of waste creates six jobs; recycling 10,000 tons of waste creates 36 jobs
The national recycling rate of 30 percent saves the equivalent of more than five billion gallons of gasoline, reducing dependence on foreign oil by 114 million barrels
According to the EPA, recycling, including composting, diverted 68 million tons of material away from landfills and incinerators in 2001, up from 34 million tons in 1990
Aluminum can (the most valuable item in your bin) recycling can fund the entire cost of curbside collection
There are three types of curbside recycling
1. Dual-Stream Recycling: This is probably the most popular form of curbside recycling in the U.S. Containers go in one bin, and papers (newspaper, magazines, direct mail, etc.) go in another. Both bins are set out on the curb on pick-up day. Most communities that offer this service use special trucks divided in half so workers can sort at the truck.
2. Single-Stream Recycling: This method is growing, but somewhat controversial. It provides one wheeled, lidded cart (65 or 94 gallon) and materials are commingled. Households do not have to separate any materials. Haulers favor single-stream because it involves less trucks and pick-ups. But there are questions about whether commingled materials are more suspect to contamination. Evidence does suggest that single-stream increases the quantity of household recyclables. Many cities have implemented single-stream programs as a result.
3. Pay-as-you-throw: Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) is actually a trash collection program that encourages curbside recycling. Residents are charged per trash bag, and curbside recycling is offered at no or reduced cost.
There are several benefits to PAYT programs:
Decreases waste: The EPA says municipalities often see 25-35 percent less waste
Increases recycling: If residents can pay for trash or recycle for “free,” they are much more watchful about what gets trashed; one California PAYT program saw recycling volumes triple, literally overnight
Control of waste costs: Residents have a direct effect on what they spend on disposal
More materials about who supports PAYT are available from the EPA. Over 6,000 communities across the country have successfully implemented PAYT.