Mid America Recycling

Crushed plastic bottles sit in a bale following sorting at Mid America Recycling last year.

FRANCIS GARDLER, Journal Star file photo

The Lincoln City Council will consider a slimmed-down, one-year contract for recycling education, rather than the three-year contract discussed at a recent meeting.

Carson+Co Global offered to have a one-year, $512,757 contract, which will cover the marketing necessary for the beginning of the city’s ban on corrugated cardboard in the landfill.

Funding for that first year includes a $225,000 state grant.

Carson+Co Global CEO Jamie Carson offered the one-year contract idea after the council delayed a decision on a three-year contract because council members and the public had questions about the contract and the $850,000 cost.

Carson said she and her staff are eager to begin the work necessary to help with the ban on corrugated cardboard, which begins in April. The company had hoped to start work on that campaign in July, she said in a recent interview.

In a memo to council members, Donna Garden, assistant director of Public Works and Utilities, said the Carson+Co Global bid offered the most comprehensive program at the lowest cost among the four bids the city received and was the unanimous choice of the selection committee.

“It was the lowest cost. It scored the highest in the interview, again unanimously,” she wrote. It was also the most qualified, with "clearly demonstrated knowledge of our solid waste system here in Lincoln."

After the July 31 public hearing, the council delayed a decision on the contract until its Aug. 14 meeting.

The first year is the most expensive of the proposed three-year contract, intended to encourage more businesses to set up recycling programs and encourage homeowners and renters to use curbside services.

The new contract would have an option to renew for an additional year.

Some of the public and council members asked about using incentives as part of the educational program. Two of the bidding companies used an incentive program.

Research shows that once incentives are removed progress reverses, Garden said. Once rewards go away, people go back to their normal behavior.

Working through the barriers that stand in the way of recycling works better for long-term change, Carson said. "One of the biggest values of this approach is that it is lasting," she said. 

The company uses a philosophy, called community-based social marketing, that is widely used in the conservation and sustainability world.

That method uses research to determine the barriers to recycling — in other words, what keeps people from recycling. Then the message — intended to change behavior — is pegged to that research.

That “behavior change” language raises the specter of Big Brother, Councilman Jon Camp said during the council discussion.

However, the city asked for that methodology in seeking bids. And the behavior change language is part of the very long name of the project: "Comprehensive Residential and Commercial Recycling Education, Engagement and Behavior Change Initiative."

Some people at the public hearing questioned money spent on research. However, research is a small portion of the project, four to six weeks, using focus groups and online surveys, Carson said in an interview.

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"This is not a big research project; we are just doing a little homework,” said Craig Moody, with Verdis Group, which also would be involved with the recycling education project.

The company also would work with businesses interested in setting up a recycling program and would provide an onsite walk-through and advice, Carson said.

It also would create an advisory committee, with residents, businesses, apartment owners and waste haulers, to look at real situations.

And there likely would be a website to help consumers find curbside service.

The project proposes to work on four areas:

* Working with haulers to reduce problems.

* For recycling processors, the company would continue education so people learn what can be recycled to keep contamination low.

* Working with residents to make it as easy and simple as possible to sign up for curbside recycling.

* Working with businesses to provide advice on services customized to their needs.

“We are rooted in Lincoln. We love Lincoln. And we want to make a positive impact here,” Carson said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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