DECATUR - People in Decatur are taking the idea of "going green" to a whole new level.
Almost one year ago, city leaders revamped their decades old waste hauling program. That meant taking away twice-a-week trash pickup and encouraging people to recycle. It was a shock to the system. But the results show homeowners are eager to kick that old program to the curb.
Keeping recyclables out of the garbage is second nature for Jamie Karakachos and her family.
"We take all the things at the top of the cans as we can, rinse them out or empty them out. It's just easy, makes a big difference," she said. But a year ago, recycling in Decatur wasn't that simple.
"It was kind of a headache. They had the smaller rectangle bins, but you had to jump through hoops to get them," said Karakachos.
"The curbside program was I consider a joke before," added Ron Shumaker. He's the president of Midwest Fiber. That's where all the plastic, paper, and other recyclables get dropped off. When the city introduced its new streamlined style last April, he was skeptical it would take off.
"Going into it I would have said maybe a 'C'," said Shumaker. "But watching what the city did, the promotion they put behind it, the effort they put into it, the ideas they put into it. It deserves an 'A+'."
Streamlined recycling means no sorting necessary. Everything gets dropped into blue bins. The haulers then dump them at Midwest Fiber. It's then sorted at a plant in Bloomington.
"We load it out, we ship at least a trailer every day," Shumaker said. And there's no letting up. City leaders were hoping the program would get 30% participation by the year 2020. But in just one year, participation is already more than 50%. "We work with several towns throughout central Illinois and this is the cream of the crop," Shumaker added.
If not for the streamlined style, Karakachos isn't sure if she would have given the city a chance. "I don't have that much time in my day to separate everything and wrap it up like a present for Christmas," she joked. "I just want to throw it in there and be done with it. When I'm done with it, I'm done with it."
City leaders say they get about five calls a day from people wanting a blue bin. Their next goal is to find a way to let large apartments contribute to the program. Right now, only buildings with six units or less can participate.
Here's more proof people in Decatur are "going green." Between April and December in 2010, 1,137 tons of recyclables were collected. The new approach more than doubled that. During that same time span in 2011, 2,327 tons were recycled.