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Dec 28, 2016 04:21PM

Go All In: Single-stream recycling a success in Scott County

By Natalie Dal Pra
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The Waste Commission of Scott County is adding an 11-member second shift on Sept. 1 to handle the increase in collections through the Go All In single-stream recycling program begun in August 2016.
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The Waste Commission of Scott County introduced the Go All In single-stream recycling program in Scott County in August 2016. Pictured is Sintayehu Klipsch, pushing one of the blue Go All In carts.
Recycling sometimes can feel like a chore. All of the sorting and separating can be time consuming and can feel inefficient. Luckily for Scott County residents, recycling has gotten easier than ever since the Go All In program was instated in August.

Go All In is a single-stream recycling program, which means residents in Davenport and Bettendorf now can put all of their recyclables into one receptacle, as opposed to the old system, where materials had to be separated from each other based on their type. In Davenport, this meant separate 18-pound carts that residents had to carry to their curb. In Bettendorf, residents had two side-by-side carts, with one side for paper and the other for plastic containers.

Now, each resident has been provided with one 95-gallon cart that will hold all recyclables. The program also has increased the scope of items that can be recycled, leading to less waste.

"Previously, only plastics with a No. 1 and a No. 2 on the bottom could be accepted. We also didn't accept juice and milk cartons, aseptic containers or canisters, such as Pringles cans, as we do now. Essentially, the old program was less inclusive, which led to more landfilling of items that we now recycle," says Brandy Welvaert, communication coordinator for the Waste Commission of Scott County.

Items that always have been collected — such as glass bottles and jars, cardboard and aluminum cans — still may be recycled.

Go All In was created to help increase the tonnage, or the amount of materials collected, which had somewhat decreased in recent years.

"There are a number of reasons that participation waned over the years. As with any program, a lot of effort went into getting recycling off the ground, so when we say that participation waned, we're not saying that things were abysmal in any sense. In fact, a survey we conducted in 2013 found that Scott County has a strong culture of recycling," Welvaert says.

"But it's hard to keep the same level of engagement over 20 years, especially when things started so strong. Moving to single-stream gave us the perfect opportunity to reinvigorate our existing culture of recycling; to reactivate the people who were already recycling and to encourage those who were nonrecyclers before."

And the Go All In program seems to be doing just that. Tonnage increase averages at 72 percent between both cities, with Davenport's increase at 95 percent and Bettendorf's at 39 percent. Davenport has a higher population, which amounts to a greater increase.

The residents' larger recycling carts mean each household now will recycle an average of 400 to 450 pounds each year.

Area residents are pleased to have a more efficient recycling system.

"Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Davenport residents like having a cart with wheels instead of two bins they have to carry, and Bettendorf residents like having their recycling picked up every two weeks instead of every four weeks," Welvaert says. "Everyone likes not having to sort paper from containers, and we've had many enthusiastic comments from residents who like being able to recycle more plastics."

Although the range of items that residents can recycle has increased, there still are some materials that cannot be disposed of in the blue Go All In carts, such as electronics, medical equipment, paints and cleaners. These items must be recycled at the Waste Commission's sites to help avoid potentially dangerous situations for workers and machinery.

E-waste items, which includes anything with a circuit board or screen, may be disposed of at the Electronic Demanufacturing Facility, 1048 E. 59th St., Davenport. Hazardous materials, such as household cleaners, paints, and pesticides, may be dropped off at the Household Hazardous Materials Facility, 5640 Carey Ave., Davenport.

Welvaert says the biggest offenders of nonrecyclable materials have been plastic bags and Styrofoam. Under no circumstances may they be disposed of in the Go All In containers, she says, because they can get caught in equipment. Styrofoam must be put in the garbage bin, while plastic bags may be recycled at many area grocery stores.

In order to accommodate the influx of tonnage and make room for new sorting equipment, the Scott County Recycling Center had to undergo an $11 million expansion. The new recycling containers were funded through a loan provided through a national nonprofit that encourages recycling. The expansion and the loan for the new carts will be repaid through revenue from collected recyclables.

The Scott Area Recycling Center is now about twice as large as before, Welvaert says. "We also expanded the attached Household Hazardous Materials Facility, which allows us to be more efficient in processing those materials and to provide better customer service by eliminating appointments," Welvaert says.

Area residents need not be concerned about tax increases to fund the new program, as the program is paid for by user fees, not taxes. The Waste Commission receives "no tax dollars, and (operates) like a business in many ways," Welvaert says. "We depend on fees collected at our facilities to provide programs to the community. Our mission is to provide environmentally sound, economically feasible, solid-waste management options."

The Waste Commission of Scott County began operating in 1972, and the Recycling Center opened in 1995. In addition to providing programs such as Go All In, the Scott Area Landfill for garbage, and the electronics and hazardous materials facilities, the Waste Commission also strives to provide education and outreach through curriculum, workshops and grants.
Natalie Dal Pra is a regular Radish contributor. For more information, visit the Waste Commission of Scott County's website at wastecom.com.

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