Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Talking Trash

It looks like just over a quarter of Memphis' residential garbage gets recycled.

I was reading this NYT story yesterday about how Houston, as the worst recycler among the 30 largest U.S. cities, only recycles 2.6 percent of its total waste. And I started wondering how Memphis compares.

According to figures from trade publication Waste News, Memphis recycles 26 percent of its total waste. That figure puts the city almost smack-dab in the middle of the country's 30 largest cities. San Francisco, which recycles 69 percent of its total waste, leads the rankings, followed by Portland and Los Angeles.

Houston, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio bring up the rear.

Annually, Memphis collects almost 6,000 tons of paper, 552 tons of metal, 828 tons of plastic, 1,800 tons of glass, and about 94,000 tons of yard trimmings, all of which yields the city about $352,000 in recycling revenue each year.

To read more about all this garbage — pun intended — click here to revisit Flyer writer Preston Lauterbach's 2006 cover story on the subject.

Waste News didn't have data on commercial recycling in Memphis, but I'd be interested to see what it is. (I met someone at the Coalition for Livable Communities Neighborhood Summit last month who was talking about trying to start a bar and restaurant recycling program. And, really, what a great idea. Even if you just started small, like with beer bottles.)

Chicago, for instance, comes in near the top of the overall rankings with a 55.4 percent recycling rate, but only 18.1 percent of its total residential waste is recycled. Their commercial recycling rate, however, is 61.4 percent.

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