Ferndale's Recycling Rate Lower than Most in Area
Residents and the city are "not doing as much as they could," SOCRRA's general manager said.
As environmentally conscious as Ferndale residents may have felt during Green Week in April or during the summer Green Cruise, the city’s recycling rate during the past decade falls near the bottom of the pack compared with the 12 other communities served by Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority.
Data from SOCRRA spanning the past decade shows that Ferndale’s rate has fluctuated since its 2004 rate of 5.22 percent, peaking at 8.23 percent in 2010.
(Find recycling data for Ferndale and other SOCRRA cities here.)
But Ferndale is currently placed fifth from the bottom in recycling rates ahead of Clawson, Lathrup Village, Oak Park and, ranked last, Hazel Park, and it hasn't ranked that high since 2003. Hazel Park's recycling rate for 2010 was 5.24 percent.
Jeff McKeen, 56, general manager at SOCRRA for nine years, said recycling rates correlate to a community’s affluence and number of rental properties.
“We haven’t done any scientific analysis to find this out,” he said. “But 20 years ago, we gave a recycling bin to every household. A lot of people have come and gone, so those bins aren’t there anymore.”
McKeen said a single-stream recycling method is currently being tested in Huntington Woods using an economic stimulus grant to fund the experimental program.
“It allows people to throw everything into the cart and not have to sort it out,” he said. “That makes it easier for the residents, and it makes it easier for the drivers.”
McKeen said Huntington Woods’ Department of Public Works is very involved in the city’s recycling, and that may be why its recycling rate leads the SOCRRA communities at 18.57 percent.
“They’ve got a person that probably spends half her time educating people on how to recycle," McKeen said. "That does produce better results. Other communities aren’t placing as much emphasis on it.”
Besides environmental reasons for increasing recycling rates, McKeen said lowering city waste costs could be a consideration in setting a higher recycling goal.
“We pay our communities $30 a ton for the recycling they deliver to us, and we charge the communities $26 a ton for the trash they deliver to us,” he said.
In the 2010 fiscal year, SOCRRA picked up 14,411.39 tons of waste in Ferndale, including recycling tonnage. McKeen said he believes Ferndale’s recycling rate would improve if the city became more involved, and he said the calendar with environmental tips, released by the DPW, is the best outreach he’s seen recently.
“I think everyone perceives Ferndale as a ‘green’ community, but if you look at recycling, they’re not doing as much as they could,” he said. “We’ve looked at people’s trash in all 12 communities. About a third of what people throw away could have been recycled.”
Resident Anne Zemba, 36, has lived in Ferndale for 34 years and said she takes full advantage of the city’s curbside pickup recycling program. She said she is surprised to hear more residents aren’t doing the same.
“I find it hard to believe, in a way, because even today when I was driving home, there are so many recycling bins everywhere,” she said. Zemba said her and her husband’s recycling efforts have reduced the amount of trash they take out weekly by about two-thirds. She said she thinks recycling would increase with more city involvement.
“You can’t force people to do anything, but I think when you raise awareness, they make the right decision,” she said.
Ferndale’s DPW Director Byron Photiades, 60, said he does not think much could be done by the city to motivate residents to recycle.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of trying to educate the public. It comes down to a personal choice,” he said. Photiades said he wasn’t sure how many residents were aware of the credit arrangement with SOCRRA.
“I don’t have an answer,” he said. “But I do believe if you told them, look, it’s going to save the city some money, I don’t think it’s going to get people to recycle.”
Photiades said that if every community recycled at the rate of Huntington Woods, the credit applied by SOCRRA would probably drop as market demand for recyclables decreased. He said he also fears that the SOCRRA facility wouldn’t be able to handle the load.
“You may have expenses that are greater than what SOCRRA is able to sell,” he said.
Changing city yard hours or offering door-to-door recycling bin drop-offs are a couple of ideas Photiades said might affect the recycling rate.
“I think you’d probably increase your rate if you dropped off recycling bins. How many people are going to take off from work or come in on their lunch or whatever?” he said. “I’ve made these recommendations in the past. And they don’t get funded.”