Mayor Loretta Spencer

Award of Excellence
The City of Huntsville and Browning-Ferris Industries Citywide Recycling Program

In the 1980s, the City of Huntsville was faced with a growing solid waste disposal problem. The need to reduce the consumption of its existing landfill, coupled with environmental concerns, prompted the City to form the Solid Waste Disposal Authority (SWDA), a non-profit, public corporation vested with the responsibilities of constructing, financing and managing the community's waste disposal facilities.

As part of an overall integrated waste management system, SWDA contracted with Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI) in May 1990 to begin a citywide recycling program. As part of this program, households were issued containers for collecting newspapers, aluminum and steel cans, #1 and #2 plastic bottles, and household batteries; two years later, glossy magazines and used motor oil were added to the list of recyclable items. Working regular routes, BFI employees sorted the materials in the containers left curbside by residents and deposited those materials in their collection trucks. In the past year, 65 percent of all households in Huntsville participated in the recycling program, putting a total of 5,028 tons of recyclable materials and approximately 10,841 gallons of oil at their curbs for collection.

In 1996, in cooperation with SWDA and other City of Huntsville agencies, BFI designed, constructed and began operating a new automated recycling facility, The Recyclery. Located on A Cleaner Way, a street in one of Huntsville's newest industrial complexes, The Recyclery was a first-of-its-kind facility for BFI, enabling the company to process recyclable materials with automated equipment and state-of-the-art technology. Sorting materials with conveyors, shakers and separators, in a facility operated by skilled workers, became a boon to businesses and cities across North Alabama: The new facility was holding down the costs associated with recycling.

Public education is part of the BFI program. Each year, in conjunction with the Huntsville school system's Earth Scope program, The Recyclery leads more than 2,000 students through tours of the facility, and the BFI recycling coordinator also visits local schools on request. Another 5,000 people of all ages are given free tours of The Recyclery each year.

In summary, the partnership between SWDA and BFI has resulted in:

  • a significant reduction in the waste stream, extending the landfill's life for years to come and saving the City millions of dollars in disposal costs;
  • environmentally safe removal of recyclable solid waste from the waste stream;
  • employment of more than 40 people from the community; and
  • environmental education for thousands of people.

BFI is proud of its participation in many civic and charitable programs in the communities in which it works. In Huntsville, this support of the community ranges from sponsoring a Boy Scout Explorer Post and establishing a recycling club at GIRL's, Inc., to implementing a citywide neighborhood watch program in which drivers watch for and report suspicious activities on their collection routes.

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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