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Local View: Education key to recycling success

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In Lincoln, we like to see ourselves at the top of the national rankings, whether it’s sports, our quality of life or our business climate.

It’s time we made significant progress in one area where we fall well below the national average — recycling. More than 40 percent of what now goes into our valuable landfill space can be recycled and made into useful products. We can do better.

Incentives can make significant and quick gains in influencing recycling, but some research suggests it may not be as long lasting as an educational approach. What Lincoln needs is a long-term strategy that fits our culture, value system and business processes.

That’s why the Nebraska League of Conservation Voters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to establish common ground in protecting our natural resources,  strongly supports the upcoming landfill standards on cardboard and a comprehensive recycling education campaign.

At NLCV, we understand the importance of conservation education. Education can create a fundamental change in how we manage our natural resources. When citizens understand the issues, they can help ensure our natural capital is maintained for the benefit of future generations.

Solving today’s challenging issues, and moving Lincoln toward a more sustainable future, cannot be done by experts and governments alone. It needs the combined support and active participation of consumers, voters, employees and community and business leaders. The proposed educational campaign works to achieve that goal. It is focused on community engagement, and ensuring that we all know how to properly recycle.

Support for recycling in Lincoln is bipartisan. When the Republican-majority City Council passed the recycling ordinance earlier this year, Lincolnites of all political backgrounds were excited to get started on improving our city’s recycling rate.

Education is the first and crucial step to ensuring that our recycling program is a success, which is why it was included as a key component of the recycling ordinance that the City Council passed. Not only did the ordinance put in place new standards on what could go into the landfill, it also increased the number of containers for drop off sites and allocated funds for education.

NLCV is familiar with Carson+Co Global, a Lincoln firm with an outstanding reputation in environmental education. Their proposal was unanimously selected by the Recycling Right Selection Committee, which consisted of public and business leaders. Carson+Co Global received unanimous support because the company not only submitted the most comprehensive proposal, they also submitted the lowest-cost bid, a win-win for Lincoln’s recycling program.

Time is short — the new landfill standards take effect in April 2018. And the stakes are high — recent trends show that businesses deciding where to locate are considering a city’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Council members had it right. If the landfill standards and recycling program are going to be successful, education is key. I urge City Council members to uphold their commitments to increasing recycling and educating the public so all residents have the tools they need to meet our recycling goals.

Chelsea Johnson is deputy director of Nebraska League of Conservation Voters.

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