Cardboard recycling

Doug Busch takes a bale of cardboard from a pile at MidAmerica Recycling to a waiting truck last week as corrugated cardboard pours in from businesses already adjusting to the requirement it be recycled in advance of the city's April 1 ban on it in the landfill.

The message is getting out: Corrugated cardboard will be banned from the Lincoln landfill beginning April 1.

Perhaps you’ve seen the note stuck to the newspaper. "Corrugated cardboard is not garbage. Recycle it.”

Or the public service announcements on local television stations.

Or a notice from your garbage hauler saying the company can’t accept corrugated cardboard and suggesting you look into a curbside recycling plan or take your cardboard to a free city recycling site.

The city has been gearing up for the additional cardboard, buying 19 large roll-off containers, using a state grant to almost double the cardboard capacity at the city’s 28 recycling sites.

The city has also ramped up its cardboard pickup service at the city sites during the week, and staffers are monitoring the city sites more frequently during the countdown to the ban, according to Gene Hanlon, the city's recycling coordinator.

Cardboard recycling has been increasing. The city collected 517,775 pounds of cardboard in January and February, 22.8 percent more than the same period last year, Hanlon said.

And the private garbage haulers have told city staff they are getting more calls for curbside recycling service, said Donna Garden, assistant director of Public Works and Utilities.

“I think the word is getting out,” Garden said.

If you already use curbside recycling, don't worry. Your corrugated cardboard is covered.

But homeowners, businesses and apartment owners who don’t recycle will need to find an alternative to the garbage container for cardboard at the beginning of April.

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Only corrugated cardboard is banned from the landfill. That’s at least three layers of paper, with one layer being rippled or corrugated. 

However, recycling proponents are hoping cardboard will be a gateway habit to additional recycling, either convincing more people to pay for a private curbside service or encouraging those who take their corrugated cardboard to a city recycling center to also drop off other recyclables — other kinds of cardboard, plastic, paper, cans, newspapers.

The education efforts have gone on for several months, ramping up in March. 

City staff and consultants have given recycling presentations to groups, educating around 1,500 people, Garden said. She also sent letters to about 9,800 businesses several months ago informing them of the ban and the city assistance available.

The city recycling sites are only for households, not for businesses or contractors, Hanlon said. 

Staff are hearing two big questions about the corrugated cardboard ban, Garden said:

* Can I recycle pizza boxes? You can recycle pizza boxes as long as there is no food in them. Grease stains are OK.

* Will city sites be able to handle all that cardboard? The city should be able to handle a 200 percent increase.

City staff will be monitoring garbage loads coming to the landfill after April 1. The city will do random load checks and pay attention to loads being dumped.

Haulers can face $100 per load fees for having unacceptable content, Garden said.

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

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.



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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