City of Birmingham

Grant Could Streamline Recycling Pickup in Birmingham

Source: Mary Scott Hodgin, WBHM)

Birmingham has accepted a grant to revamp the city’s recycling program so residents can opt in or opt out of recycling, making pickup more efficient.

The grant for more than $750,000 comes from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management Recycling Fund. It will pay for trucks, bins and educational and training programs.

The idea is to restructure curbside recycling collection so people can register for recycling service or opt out. The city then would determine special routes for picking up recycling from those who want the service.

“They won’t be just scavenging looking for a recycling bin,” Chaz Z. Mitchell, chief of operations for Birmingham, said about trash collectors. Now, he said, they basically drive up and down the streets of their route on the specified recycling days looking for recycling that has been put out on the curb. With a new system, they’ll know where to look and where they don’t need to look.

Councilor Hunter Williams Hunter asked whether it would be possible to set up a similar program for bulk trash pickups. He said he gets hundreds of complaints a month and suggested having a system in which people could call 311 when they needed bulk trash pickup and have the trash removed within a few days. Now, pickup runs on a set schedule across the city.

Mitchell agreed an alternate system for bulk trash pickup is needed and said the administration hopes this grant would get the city closer to that goal.

Council Darrell O’Quinn pointed out that the grant doesn’t say you can’t also use the technology or equipment for other things. So, he suggested, if the trucks are being used for recycling pickup, they could be used for other waste collection, as well.

Several councilors agreed, including Council President Wardine Alexander, who pressed for more information to be disseminated to encourage residents to recycle.

Councilor Valerie Abbott, who said she’s among the dyed-in-the wool recyclers, said she’s seen too much money spent on the city’s dump that could have been used to improve the neighborhoods. Encouraging recycling would keep the city from having to expand the dump as quickly, saving money as well as increasing recycled materials. She asked whether the city could require recycling. Mitchell said mandatory recycling had not been brought up and would have to be coordinated with the council, the mayor’s office and city attorney.