Pulaski County will seek bids until Friday from private contractors to operate a new recycling rewards program. The plan is intended to replace a previous, smaller rewards program that covered Little Rock, North Little Rock and Sherwood, which ended because it wasn’t engaging residents. The new county-wide recycling incentives program will encourage local businesses to donate rewards to individuals and schools that recycle. The deadline for contract worth up to $150,000 is Friday afternoon.
The program will create a website for county residents to report their recycling rates on an honors system to receive rewards. According to Carol Beevis, Deputy Director of the Pulaski County Regional Recycling and Waste Reduction District.
“We’re going to have gas cards, we’re going to have grocery cards and cash money and tickets to local events and things like that,” said Beevis. “There’s going to be a lot of variety, it won’t just be a discount, it will be actually getting something, receiving something,” she added.
Recycling rates have improved dramatically since 2012, when the county instituted single stream recycling which allows residents to put all of their recyclables in one container. There is now 80 percent participation in recycling, up from 35 percent. While some parts of Pulaski County have rates among the highest in the nation, surrounding towns, like Jacksonville and Maumelle struggle with recycling rates near 20 percent.
The new program will involve local businesses in offering incentives. Schools will have the opportunity to start recycling education programs for incentives as well. According to Beevis, the program’s goal is to encourage recycling habits.
“It doesn’t matter what type of program you have, if you’re recycling, that’s a good thing. And also, the schools, if they have a recycling program or if they start one, they will register on a different site as our rewards program site and they will be eligible for cash awards and art materials and things like that,” she said.
Glen Hooks, director of the Arkansas Sierra Club in says he applauds the county’s efforts. “We’re certainly in favor of anything that would encourage or require people to recycle more. I understand there were some problems getting participation in previous programs. I’m encouraged the city is looking for new ways to get recycling in the city rather than abandoning the effort all together, so that’s encouraging,” said Hooks.
He said some areas recycling drop off centers have been closed and that’s hurt progress. “If we continue to expand into making it easier for recycling dwellers to recycle, that will be a big step. But I think it’s also important that we get some more of the county involved, some other areas that are harder to get, we’ve gotten rid of our drop off locations in the last year or so and I’ve heard a lot of complaints about that,” said Hooks.
The rewards program will be set up as a website where individuals and schools can report their recycling on the honors system. The program will offer free promotion for local businesses that donate rewards such as gas cards and art supplies for schools. Recycling rewards will also launch educational programs in participating schools.