Recycling Up Fivefold in St. Louis -- Though City Diverts Just 10 Percent of Waste


It's been six months since all St. Louis households have had access to curbside recycling via those blue alley dumpsters or roll-out bins. And already city officials say they're seeing a huge uptick in the amount of waste diverted from landfills.

Though there is definitely room for improvement.

Todd Waelterman, director of the city's street department (which oversees refuse), says that nearly 10 percent of the solid waste his crews collect today ends up being recycled. That's up from just 2 percent prior to the roll out of curbside recycling that began in 2010 and ended this spring.

"We're proud of what we've accomplished, but know we can do more," says Waelterman, whose department visits schools and neighborhood committees to educate residents on recycling.

According to the city, some 50 percent of waste it collects could be recycled if everyone bought into the program. And that recycled content could have an impact on more than just the environment.

Last year the city paid $5.1 million to bury 149,000 tons of garbage in landfills across the river in Illinois. Conversely, the city can actually get paid for recycling depending on market rates. Waelterman says recyclers have paid as much as $20 to $30 per ton for recyclables, though right now the market is down and paying little if anything.

"Still that beats paying $35 a ton to dispose of the waste in a landfill," he says.

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