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Go Big Or Go Home! Dallas Does Recycling

Everything is bigger in Texas––and in Dallas that means recycling, too.

In Texas, it’s go big or go home.  So when Dallas decided it needed to go greener, the city went all out to increase recycling and reduce the amount of trash headed to local landfills.  And it worked.  Recycling rates have increase by 50% in the last 3 years alone.

In 2002, the Dallas area recycling rate was a puny 2%.  Small time, especially compared to other large U.S. cities like San Fransisco, who come it at about a 75% recycling rate. Not to be out-done, Dallas has jumped on the bandwagon and implemented new policies aimed at dramatic recycling and diversion increases over the last 8 years.

In 2003, Dallas changed the way recyclables are collected–– going from an admittedly cumbersome blue-bag system that required residents to separate items before curbing––to a single stream recycling program.

Next, in 2007, Dallas began to implement the OneDAYDallas program, which changed recycling and trash pick-up schedules to create greater collection efficiency.

Then, three years ago, the city began an outreach program to increase recycling within groups that are typically resistant to such measures, like multifamily buildings, mixed-use developments and hotels.  City officials also began to meet regularly with homeowner’s associations, apartment complex managers and residents, to both encourage recycling and discuss ideas and problems residents have with the system.

There are other new programs under way, too.  In the Dallas Downtown Improvement District, an area that services downtown multifamily buildings, a system of rolling recycling carts was added near trash chutes to collect recyclables within the buildings. Once a week, the carts are moved to a central location for collection by contractors.

The most recent addition to Dallas’ recycling initiatives is an education program designed to teach students and residents of elder care homes about recycling. The city has also added community workshops designed to teach homeowners about backyard composting.

By the end of 2007, recycling tonnages had tripled––from 10,000 tons in 2001 to more than 44,000 tons. Last year, Dallas exceeded its goals a year ahead of schedule by reaching a household recycling participation rate of 60%.

For 2011, Dallas is projecting recycling collections to top 53,000 tons. That would represent about 10% of the municipal solid waste generated by the city.

No doubt the Big D has a long row to hoe to catch up with recycling and diversion rates of cities like Seattle and San Francisco, but they’ll get there.  In Dallas, you can always count on the idea of bigger…bigger hats, bigger ranches, bigger personalities, and oh yea, bigger recycling goals, too.

About Sebrina Zerkus Smith

Professional writer, foodie. Lupus survivor. Loves pugs, wine, days at the beach and good movies. Takes recycling seriously, but not much else. Sebrina Zerkus Smith is a Southern Gal that has been scratching the writer’s itch for nearly 30 years. Her career began in Washington, D.C., in 1987, fresh out of collage and full of ideals. While plying her trade by day on congressional reps and senators, at night she burned the candle writing features for local newspapers and national magazines. She quickly realized that her southern upbringing gave her a unique and humorous voice that resonated with her readers. Eventually, she moved to Los Angeles where she pursued her dream of becoming a novelist and screenwriter. She paid her bills by working as a freelance writer for major marketing projects from studios such as CBS, NBC and Disney. Realizing that the future of writing lay with the internet, she was bitten by the blogging bug back in the 90’s, back before it was even called “blogging.” Then it was still just writing and trying to make a living. Through those early blogging years, Sebrina found passion and purpose. Over the past 10 years she has written articles for clients such as LightCues.com, MatterMore.com, Greenopolis, MacAddict, Yahoo, CNN and more. Today, Sebrina writes about a variety of topics including the Southern Experience, sustainability, clean water, food, gardening, sleep and her obsession with pugs. She is a regular paid contributor to WildOats.com as well as other entities. She now lives in Houston with her husband Jeff and their pug Newton. She hopes one day to complete her opus, Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed.

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