By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — More residents than ever are recycling their trash, and that is raising money for the city, Mayor James Fiorentini said.
Since it started two years ago, the city’s curbside recycling program has boosted Haverhill’s finances by $150,000 in combined revenue and savings on trash disposal.
Participation among Haverhill households has almost doubled to 82 percent over that span, he said.
The effect of the increased participation, he said, is that the city has diverted 10 percent more of its trash from the Covanta Waste to Energy plant in Ward Hill, which the city pays to take its trash, to places that pay the city for recyclable material.
In the last two years, the city has received $93,000 from the sale of recyclables and avoided $56,000 in waste disposal costs at the Covanta plant, Fiorentini said.
The mayor announced the new figures as the city’s three-year state recycling grant is expiring. The $50,000 grant paid for a recycling coordinator to go into Haverhill’s neighborhoods to track and promote recycling.
Fiorentini said he will likely have to eliminate the position in two months.
City Councilor Colin LePage, who along with the Team Haverhill civic volunteer group, helped Haverhill launch citywide single-stream curbside recycling, said the mayor understated the financial benefits of the city’s increased recycling. The single-stream method allows residents to put all recyclables in a single container at the curb.
LePage said the mayor’s figures are only for the previous two years covered by the state grant. He said when the first year of single-stream curbside recycling is included in the analysis, the city generated a total of $173,000 and saved $160,000 over the span, for a net impact of $333,000.
LePage said the curbside program has saved the city an average of $111,000 per year since 2011.
“While the trash disposal cost has increased 7.15 percent since 2010, we spent $71,823.69 less for trash disposal than we paid in 2010,” LePage said in an email. “How many other recurring operating budget line items have we been able to consistently reduce each year, without having to pay or cut somewhere else?”
LePage said he sees an opportunity for growing the recycling rate further by getting people who already recycle to do it better. The city’s trash still includes too much material that could be recycled, he said.
“Even among people who recycle, there are still a lot of recyclables in their trash,” LePage said. “That’s stuff we shouldn’t be paying to get rid of. Instead we could be paid for it.”
LePage said he supports reducing the maximum number of trash barrels people are allowed to put on the curb from three to two. That would encourage more recycling, he said.
“The program is doing great,” LePage said. “But now that people are becoming more educated about recycling, we can do more.”
Fiorentini said he is also considering going from a manual system for collecting recyclable material to an automated system in which equipment would be installed on trucks to collect and empty recycling bins without workers.
Capital Waste, the city’s trash collector, has a contract to collect recyclables — glass, metal, plastic containers, paper and cardboard — at the curb through July 31, 2014.