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Campaign aims to boost Buffalo's low recycling rate

Avery Schneider

At a cold but sunny Earth Day announcement in Niagara Square, the City of Buffalo unveiled its first-ever ad campaign aimed at increasing recycling rates.

Mayor Byron Brown said Buffalo has worked to educate residents on the value of recycling, not only for the environment, but for their wallets. He said recycling has helped hold the line on the city’s garbage user fee.

“It is our hope that as we increase recycling, potentially, we might be able to actually even reduce that fee,” said Brown.

Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News
A member of the city's team promoting the "34 and More" campaign shows off one of the instructional posters that will be hung around Buffalo.

“34 and More” is the name of the ad campaign that aims to continue that education, with colorful posters around the city. Each has drawings and written instructions about what to do with all kinds of recyclable refuse.

Local branding agency, Block Club was chosen to design and manage the campaign. Block Club Account Executive David Horesh explained, “The idea behind these signs is that if there’s enough of them around the city and the people are interacting with this message frequently that not only will there be a tote at every home and business in the City of Buffalo, but it will be easy to understand what belongs in those totes.”

As for how the city ensures the success of the recycling program, Brown focused on education as enforcement, saying little about the ways the city confirms whether or not people are complying. He said the city does have inspectors, and Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak identified what he calls “oops tags” as a way of notifying residents.

“It’s a tag that goes onto either your recycling tote or your garbage tote to let you know that you didn’t recycle, and that you probably should recycle, and how helpful it is,” Stepniak said.

Brown said the city’s recycling rate has seen regular increases since he took office. The national average is 34 percent, which Brown wants to exceed, hence – 34 and more.

But as the message spreads far and wide to residents, the city’s public schools haven’t all been pitching in fully. Some are recycling only paper products, rather than co-mingling them with all plastics and metals in what’s known as the “single-stream” model.

Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News
(From left) City of Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak, Recycling Director Susan Attridge, Mayor Byron Brown, and Block Club Account Executive David Horesh.

City Recycling Director Susan Attridge said every school has the opportunity to recycle, but it’s up to each one to decide how. She said she's trying to get all schools to comply, particularly with bottle and can disposal.

“I think we’re working with the schools to let them know that it’s not a difficult process to make sure that those bottles and cans are rinsed out and cleaned out, they can be kept outside,” said Attridge. “So we’ll continue to go case by case, talking.”

Attridge said the city school district is enthusiastic about recycling and, for now, she said she’ll keep encouraging all schools to move to “single-stream.”

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.