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'Recycle Right' program has saved the city of Corpus Christi $500K

Officials said the education program it implemented last year has eliminated the need to spend money on a separate center to correctly sort recyclables.

City Of Corpus Christi Solid Waste Compliance Officer Kimberly Tamez is just one of the workers who go neighborhood-to-neighborhood looking through your recycle bin to make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

One of the biggest no-nos she sees in recycling bins likely is something most people don't realize is not allowed.

"Plastic bags are pretty common," she said. "Everybody puts the recycling in a bag. I guess to keep it more organized. Just -- stretchy plastic is not recyclable.”

Putting the wrong items into Corpus Christi's recycle bins was costing the city an extra $500,000 a year, because they were having to pay an outside company to properly sort its recycling.

Stretchy plastic, which can be recycled -- just not by the city's system, is one of thoe things having to be sorted. 

So, last February, the city decided to begin its"Recycle Right" program -- a way to educate folks as to what is and isn't allowed in the bins.

"Since that time we have seen a 25 percent reduction in contamination,” said city of Corpus Christi Solid Waste Director David Lehfeldt.

Tamez and her co-worker Javier Salinas patroled the streets around Kaffie Middle School on Thursday morning. Each recycle bin was checked and tagged. 

Some got an "Oops" tag if there are only a few wrong items, and the tag lists items that don't go in the bin.

A number of bins were given a "contaminated" tag, and won’t be picked up by the recycle truck.

"This one has food waste in it -- food waste, trash," Tamez said. "It’s just overflow.”

And then some bins were given a "great job" tag because there was very little-to-nothing wrong. 

Robert Rodriguez Jr. received one of these, earning him a "Recycling Ranger" award. 

"I do the best that I can to recycle," he said. "You know, it’s good to recycle. You know, save our environment and everything, you know -- it’s good. It’s good.” 

The city said since last February, it’s done about 38,000 of these daily recycle-bin inspections. 

Unfortunately, 50 percent of those have gotten an "oops" tag. 

On the positive side, only 6 percent of folks have received a "contaminated" tag, and if they continue to not follow the rules, their recycle carts will be picked up and removed after the fourth notice.

They can re-apply to the city after six months to get their recycle bin back.

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