Island increases recycling collection in program's first month

Less trash has gone to the landfill since Hilton Head Island's new recycling program began, according to town officials.

In April -- the first month since Republic Services Inc. was granted a five-year franchise to provide residential waste and recycling collection -- about 15 more tons of garbage was recycled than the previous monthly average.

About 123 tons were collected, or about 10 to 15 pounds per household per week, which meets a national average, town staff said.

Before, only about 108 tons of recyclables were collected each month. The comparison is based on the last collection data provided to the town in August 2009 by the six commercial haulers that serviced the island.

About 6,500 customers -- less than one-third of all residences -- had signed up for service through April, slightly below a town goal of 7,000. However, about 25 new customers sign up each day, according to town facilities manager Julian Walls.

Households that already had contracts for waste or recycling collection can wait until their agreements expire or until Sept. 30, 2012, to use the new service.

"It's been a successful start," said town public project and facilities director Scott Liggett.

The town's recycling program will also help with another goal -- participation in Audubon International's Sustainable Communities Program.

Town staff say they are moving to the final step in the program, with a project aimed at educating the public about environmental issues. The town plans to install four signs at Jarvis Creek Park explaining how park elements divert and filter stormwater runoff before it enters waterways and provide wetland habitat, said town senior grants administrator Marcy Benson.

Once installed, Audubon International will review the project and decide if the town should receive its "sustainable community" certification, Benson said. The designation would help the island market itself as a premier eco-friendly destination, town and chamber of commerce officials have said.