Model City ProfileModel City Profile

Hartford, Connecticut
Population: 124,512
Bottle Bill: Yes
Collection Method: Municipal employees
Funding: General Fund and Stimulus Funds
Households Served: 24,000
Truck Type: Rear loaders with cart tippers
Container Type: 64 gallon carts for recycling
Materials Processing Facility: Single stream processing
Hartford, Connecticut

The results of a successful, single stream recycling pilot led the City of Hartford to switch from dual stream to single stream recycling collection, using 64-gallon carts and the RecycleBank rewards system.  Prior to the pilot, Hartford provided weekly, dual stream curbside recycling collection using 18-gallon blue bins and recycled about 1620 tons from City households in 2007, or less than 150 pounds per household per year served. 

The pilot began in 2008 when Hartford worked with the National Recycling Partnership (created by the National Recycling Coalition and sponsors -- The American Beverage Association, The Grocery Manufacturing Association, The Food Marketing Institute and the International Bottled Water Association) to identify specific collection methods and program practices to improve Hartford’s recycling program.  Hartford’s demographics, potential for increased recovery through investment in new equipment, and strong municipal, political and management support team made them a good candidate to demonstrate how investments in recycling could show large returns.

The City was interested in a pilot project that would test how single stream collection might increase recycling and collection efficiency.  Several options were considered for the pilot before the City decided to trial single stream, cart-based recycling collection using RecycleBank incentives on five collection routes representative of the demographics of the City. 

Part of the City’s decision to use RecycleBank came from the challenges Hartford faced in increasing participation in curbside recycling.  Hartford is one of the lowest median income cities in the nation and the poorest municipality in Connecticut. With per capita income of $13,428 (Census 2000) and 30% of the population living below the poverty line, the opportunity to offer a financial incentive to recycle was an element that the City team felt important.  In addition, Hartford has a relatively low owner occupancy rate (25%) as well as a high rate of transient households, with roughly one-third of total households moving every 5 years.  Given these challenging statistics, Hartford’s pilot hoped to test whether best practices for recycling (e.g. single stream, large volume carts, and parallel daily collection) could be sweetened by a unique reward system offered by RecycleBank, which provides a direct incentive for households to participate.

The pilot resulted in a doubling of recycling quantities on the five routes, from roughly 8 tons per week to 16 tons per week.  The City expects recycling quantities to double City-wide with the expansion of the program.   Contamination rates increased from roughly 5 percent to 10 – 12 percent, still within acceptable levels for the MRF.