Sheila Sweeney stood expectantly by her garage Tuesday as St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman rolled a new blue recycling cart her way.
Hers is one of more than 78,000 households in the city that will receive wheeled, lidded carts for recyclables over the next six weeks — though she is likely the only one to get hers delivered by the mayor.
“This cart is a long time in coming,” Coleman said after giving the cart to Sweeney, a longtime recycler and composter in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood.
Recycling rates had leveled off in St. Paul in recent years, despite a switch to the single-sort system in 2014. So the city, hoping to encourage more participation, is making several changes to its recycling collection process that should make it easier for residents, Coleman said.
St. Paul residents currently put recyclables in bins without lids. On windy days, papers fly into the street. And the bins must be placed along curbs, while trash is picked up in alleys. With the new system, residents with alley access will be able to wheel their lidded recycling cart to the same area as their trash.
“I’m all about simplicity, making it easier,” Sweeney said. “I hope that this really gets people excited.”
While people may want to make the switch from bins to carts immediately, city staff said they should not do so until Jan. 16, after all residents have received the carts.
The carts cost St. Paul $4.6 million, according to city budget documents. Ramsey County has pledged to cover half the cost and the city got a $500,000 grant to help pay for them. A typical household’s recycling fee will increase by $4 to $58 in 2017.
Some residents’ collection days will change, and the city is sending out letters with maps showing when neighborhoods can expect their carts to be emptied. People can also recycle some new materials, including paper tubes and food containers, starting Jan. 16.
St. Paul still will not collect organics, like food scraps. There are drop-off locations around the city for organics, said Ellen Biales with the Department of Public Works. The city and Ramsey County are looking into organics collection, and that will likely roll out in mid-2018, Biales said.