City can expand recycling program without mandating

In part to make up for an estimated $5 to 7 million revenue shortfall this year, the city of Lexington is considering a proposal that would require mandatory participation in the recycling and yard waste collection program, the Kernel reported Friday.

This board has been a firm supporter of recycling efforts in its previous editorials, and we welcome any measures that would increase recycling in the city.

Recycling’s environmental benefits are obvious: It slows the expansion of landfills and reduces manufacturers’ need to get raw materials through environmentally unsound practices.

Expanding recycling can also save the city money. The city has to pay to have non-recycled trash disposed in a landfill; on the other hand, the recycled material can be sold to a recycling company, saving the landfill cost while generating a profit for the city. And because the city already performs regular garbage pick up for practically every household, collecting recyclables doesn’t bring a significant additional cost.

However, the city should carefully plan its efforts to expand recycling. A “mandatory” recycling program would most likely be difficult to enforce. And while an incentive program would most likely encourage more people to participate in the city recycling program, it would also create more overhead and invite attempts to cheat the system by placing trash in recycling containers.

Participating in the city recycling program is already so simple that any resident who wants to get a bin can do so with just a phone call. If Lexington provides garbage pickup at an address, then more than likely, the city will also provide a Rosie — the nickname given to the standard recycling bin.

The greatest obstacle for many residents — especially students renters, who have little incentive to research city policy because of the relatively short time they stay at a single address — is perhaps awareness. The city should make sure not only that residents know about the program, but that everyone knows what can and cannot be recycled by the city. Many well-meaning people are undoubtedly throwing away material that could be recycled, or trying to recycle material that should be going to a land fill, because they haven’t been told otherwise.

Students who live off campus can order their own Rosie by calling city’s Division of Waste Management at

425-2255. For more information, visit the city’s recycling program Web site (