A Cleaner, Greener Mobile

by Bill Harkins, Executive Director of Public Works

The City of Mobile is entering a new era of litter and recycling through a multi-pronged approach.  This takes coordination and teamwork from City Departments, volunteers, organizations and citizens. By doing so, we’ll become a cleaner, greener Mobile and improve our quality of life. Why change?  After listening to our citizens, there is a strong demand to solve the litter problem and to offer more recycling opportunities.   Though on the surface recycling and litter may not seem connected, they are.  Research and common sense both show that the more we recycle, the less we litter.

For decades, the City has had a Keep Mobile Department (KMB) that has worked closely with the KMB Commission and KMB Inc. to set a foundation for recycling and litter efforts in Mobile.  Despite these efforts, our diversion rate from our landfills is only 6 percent.  The reported state average is 24 percent and the national average is 34 percent.  We not only want to finally meet the national average for recycling, we want to exceed it!

With this in mind, we developed an operational plan that increases opportunities for our citizens to recycle that are more accessible and less confusing.  This not only helps people move away from a littering mindset, but reduces landfill use and costs.

Mayor Stimpson announcing our new litter and recycling agenda

At the same time, we organized a more focused section of City employees to address our litter issues directly.  We combined two small City Departments, the Spill Crew and Keep Mobile Beautiful, renaming the department:  Cleaner, Greener Mobile.  We’ve also purchased specialized equipment allowing our employees to clean up litter at a faster rate.  This group is responsible for coordinating the City’s litter eradication work and implementing our robust recycling program.

Mayor Stimpson taking one of our new Vactor trucks for a spin. These trucks allow our employees to swiftly remove litter from our sidewalks.

There has been a lot of buzz about recycling in Mobile lately.  Yes, we are shutting down the old recycle center at Government Street and setting up multiple recycle drop off locations throughout the City.  Why?  The old center required citizens to sort their recyclables, and place them in separate bins or other holding areas at the center.  Our recyclables will now be delivered to a single stream material recovery facility just 57 miles away that uses state of the art technology to process all recyclables without manual sorting and separation.  Citizens will no longer have to sort recyclable materials.  Plastics, bottles, cardboard, paper and metals will be gathered in one container at home or in the office and then placed in a single stream bin at one of the drop off locations.  We’ve converted to single stream recycling at the old recycle center for several weeks and it’s been a huge success.

Accepted Recyclable Materials include Glass, Newspaper & Inserts, Cardboard, Magazines & Catalogs, Junk Mail & Envelopes, Paper Bags & Phone Books, Colored Papers, Aluminum Cans & Lids, Tin/Steel Cans & Lids, Metal Pots & Pans, Pet Food Cans, Plastic Produce Clamshells, Plastic Milk Jugs, Cereal Boxes, Foil Baking Pans, Cardboard Egg cartons, Dry Pet Food Bags, Pizza Boxes, Tin Foil, Plastic Bottles and Plastics No. 1-7.

We refocused our mission and goal to double the collection of recyclables within one year.   We will no longer be a redistribution center for items such as packing peanuts, old clothes, wooden pallets, plastic bags, and other items that are not recyclable.  We are directing our patrons to other organizations who will accept these items.  We are no longer holding and redistributing oversized pickle jars and other items that are now a part of the recycling stream.  Additionally, plastic shopping bags and coat hangers can be returned to your retailer.

As we demobilize the leased Government Street location, we’re establishing more drop off locations at the Western Administrative Center, across Museum Drive from the Mobile Museum of Art in Langan Park (bright green box on  map below).

We’ll also place a single stream drop off bin behind the Police Headquarters near Public Safety Memorial Park.  This one will be accessed from Pinehill drive (bright green box on  second map below).  Within months, there will be drop off locations in every Council District.

We’re excited about our new recycling and litter programs.  I encourage you to try the single stream recycling process at a drop off location near you. We think you’ll like it and you’ll be helping to clean up Mobile too!