City’s mug program boosts reduction of waste
In February 1996, Clifton, N.J., expanded its source reduction/pollution prevention programs and launched a city-wide reusable mug program. The city’s Environmental Protective Commission and Recycling cling Office is implementing the mug program to educate the public about the need to control street litter, reduce solid waste, lower source and non-point source pollution and increase wise use of natural resources.
The members of the commission wanted to learn how much tonnage might be diverted from the solid waste stream, so they collected various types of disposable coffee cups and lids from area stores and determined that 26 cups and lids would weigh approximately one pound. Therefore, they figured, someone who drinks two cups of coffee a day, six days a week, would throw away about 624 cups a year, generating 24 pounds of solid waste. Currently, the costs in Clifton are $35 per ton for collection of solid waste and $113.04 per ton for disposal.
Eight-hundred reusable mugs and brochures explaining the program, were purchased by the commission with a grant from the Environmental Endowment for New Jersey, which supports local projects near the N.Y./N.J. harbor estuary. The commission received $2,000 to implement an educational program informing the public about pollution in waterways. The mugs and brochures are given out free in several “mom-and-pop” stores throughout the city to citizens who purchase coffee fee and are willing to participate in the program. Most store owners have agreed to sell a cup of coffee a discount count each time a citizen returns with a mug. Many have also agreed to accept any other clean, reusable mugs that customers bring in.
In addition to reducing solid waste, the partnership between citizens businesses and government aims to keep floatable litter from entering catch basins and polluting waterways. The Federal Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection have stated that floatables are a major cause of non-point source pollution in the area. Also, floatables such as coffee cups and lids can endanger marine life as they flow down the Passaic River into the harbor estuary, eventually ending up in the Atlantic Ocean.
One month after the reusable mug program began, a survey taken at each of the stores that received mugs showed that about 30 percent of the 600 mugs initially distributed are being reused on a regular basis. Some citizens are reusing mugs twice a day for their morning and lunch breaks.
In addition to the reusable mug program, Clifton has also encouraged citizens in recent years to adopt activities such as:
* donating or reselling old appliances and home furnishings to thrift stores or organizations in need;
* buying less packaging and making preferences known to merchants
* buying in bulk and shopping for durable products;
* buying reusable items like pens, razors, cloth diapers, rechargeable batteries and beverages sold in returnable containers;
* shopping with reusable bags; and
* purchasing products made from recycled materials.
Clifton’s 75,000 residents are currently required to separate and recycle about 22 different types of materials. In 1995, the city achieved an overall recycling rate of 71 percent of its solid waste, reduced by more than 7,000 tons the amount of waste collected and transported to landfills and earned more than $535,000 from the sale of recylables.
Other on-going programs in Clifton include. Adopt-A-spot, Adopt-A-Storefront and Public Lands Cleanup Day. During the past four years, these programs and others like them have involved more than 6,000 students from 25 schools each year, 25 civic and youth organization and 175 local businesses.