Phoenix recycling program plagued with low participation

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In April 2017, Mayor Stanton and City Council unveiled Phoenix's new compost facility located next to the city's transfer station and recycling facility at 27th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road.  (Source: City of Phoenix) In April 2017, Mayor Stanton and City Council unveiled Phoenix's new compost facility located next to the city's transfer station and recycling facility at 27th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road. (Source: City of Phoenix)
PHOENIX (AP) -

Phoenix's plan to divert green waste and recyclables away from landfills is suffering due to poor participation in the curbside composting program.

Public Works Assistant Director Joe Giudice said less than 4 percent of the 158,000 eligible properties are participating in the city's composting program, the Arizona Capitol Times reported Monday.

The curbside pilot program allows residents to send green waste to a composting facility through a separate bin that the city collects weekly. Residents in certain areas can acquire the bin for a fee.

The program is part of the Reimagine Phoenix plan to reach a 40 percent diversion rate by 2020 and have zero waste by 2050. The rate has reached 20 percent, but it moved only 4 percent since the program began in 2013. The city plans to release new rate numbers in the coming weeks.

The Public Works Department completed a $13.3 million composting facility in April that it hopes will spur momentum in the program. Giudice said the department moved slowly until it had the ability to compost on a larger scale, so he's still hopeful that the city can reach the rate goal by 2020.

The compost center is currently able to turn 55,000 tons of organic green waste into compost each year, but it is operating close to full capacity. The city plans to double the amount in coming years.

Programs in other cities have had different results.

Officials in Boise, Idaho, launched a curbside composting program earlier this year and saw composting rates far higher than anticipated. Boise spokesman Colin Hickman told the Idaho Statesman newspaper in July that the city had expected to compost an average of 45 tons of material a day at first. Instead, it has collected an average of 66 tons per day, with trash volumes decreasing accordingly.

Boise residents were automatically enrolled in the program but could opt out if they weren't interested. The city also made it cheaper to compost than not, raising garbage, recycling and compost rates for all customers and then offering up to $10 in rebates to composters and recyclers.

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