In the Spotlight
City of Dallas, TX Sanitation Services: Improving Its Programs One Step at a Time
By partnering with the private sector to support community programs as well as face, challenges as they come, the City of Dallas Sanitation Services has been able to grow and thrive.
With a “can-do” attitude and a city slogan of “Live Large, Think Big™, the City of Dallas, TX has had a rich history of implementing innovative business strategies and building its reputation in leadership and progress. And it’s no different with its Sanitation Services Department. The recycling program was established in the early 1990s when the City of Dallas hired a recycling coordinator to implement a recycling program for Dallas residents. In 2002, the program expanded further when the mayor formed a task force to research and make recommendations for its expansion in an effort to increase participation. In 2003, Dallas City council accepted the task force recommendations to provide blue roll carts, go to a single-stream recycling method and provide a broad educational outreach. Since then, the program has expanded from one employee to a Waste Diversion Team of 10 and currently services around 235,000 residential customers with more than 1 million citywide. In addition to weekly trash and recycling collection, the Sanitation Services Department provides a wide variety of other services, including bulk and brush monthly curb collection, dead animal collection, e-waste drop off sites, community recycling sites, waste diversion public awareness events, special event recycling, compost classes and coordinate collection events for hard to recycle items and household chemical waste.
Although the past few years have been a challenge, the department is determined to continue to use those bumps in the road as stepping stones to improve its program. As other companies and organizations across the nation have experienced, the department has dealt with budget cuts and reduction in salary and benefits for staff. However, they made a plan to partner with private industry because it provides additional support for their public awareness and education program. As a result, many have stepped up to support the department’s programs. Explains Sheila Overton, Waste Diversion Manager, “Greenstar, the city’s recycling processor, provides an educational trailer as well as funding toward community events. They were our lunch sponsor for our Texas Recycles Day event last November with more than 700 Dallas school students. Samsung with support from Sharp, Toshiba and Panasonic paid the processing costs associated with recycling e-waste as a sponsor of our Stop, Drop & Go program. AT&T provides volunteers for events in addition to sponsoring giveaways. There are too many to list all.” Because the Sanitation Services Department partnered with private companies, no programs had to be cut and Overton hopes that there will be ongoing partnerships even as the economy improves. “Together we do it better!” says Overton.
Overton stresses that, currently, the biggest issue they face is keeping people in the community interested and excited about recycling in an effort to increase tonnages collected and participation. “We have increased our public education efforts and believe this will return a positive behavior change.” Not only does the department focus on teaching the community about recycling, composting, electronics recycling and how to reduce impacts through home waste management, they also hosted a meeting with a representative from every Dallas Independent School District facility to educate them on their Environmental Education Initiative, a free educational program provided to every school within the City of Dallas to educate our students and faculty on what, how and why to recycle.
In addition, the department works with neighborhood associationsBuckner Terrace Neighborhood Association, attends town hall meetings and neighborhood events such as school carnivals and neighborhood safety fairs, and hosts an occasional peace rally and sit in. For example, in April the Waste Diversion Team hosted a 1960s-style recycling rally at Whole Foods in Lakewood. The event was designed to encourage attendance at the Spring Recycling Roundup and promote environmental public awareness. As a result, more than 8,000 residents have diverted 852,904 tons to date through their roundup efforts. In addition, the department has most recently been awarded the Green Cities Award in the largest city category at the 2011 Residential Recycling Conference because of their ability and strategic outreach to residents using a variety of media outlets, such as Dallas Morning News and popular television and radio shows, automated phone bank calls, flyers at community events, promotional plugs on the City of Dallas’ main website and the GreenDallas.net education website, and the City of Dallas Facebook page.
However, Overton is most proud of the department’s implementation of OneDay Dallas, which is a weekly garbage and recycling service for the city’s residents (www.onedaydallas.com). In March of 2008, 23,000 homes kicked off the program with city wide service by March of 2009. Not only is once per week collection easier for residents but it reduces the time garbage trucks spend on city streets. The department advertised with buses and billboards in order to make residents aware of the coming changes. With this program, residents went from twice weekly garbage collection and every other week recycling to the new and improved once weekly collection of garbage and recycling together on the same day. “Not only do residents find the service easier and more efficient we have experienced an increase in our single stream recycling that has generated $3.5million in revenue from the sale of recyclables since Jan 2007,” says Overton.
As a result of these outreach programs and the department’s constant involvement, 65 percent of residents are currently participating in our recycling program. The amount of waste in Dallas has been reduced by more than 25 percent with their waste diversion efforts.
Facing Challenges Head On
As the department continues to operate and grow, Overton says that they will continue partnerships with private sector to support community programs as well as face, head on, challenges as they come, especially any budget cuts that could affect service. She stresses, “Working together to provide better programming and services to our residents is what brings us together as a city.”
For more information, contact Sheila Overton, Waste Diversion Manager, at (214) 670-3555 or call the Waste Diversion hotline at (214) 670-4475.