Congratulations are due to Mayor Byron W. Brown and Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak for making recycling a priority in Buffalo. Their new green recycling totes have been a smash hit, helping the city double its curbside recycling rate from 8 percent to 16 percent. But the national average is roughly 34 percent, and San Francisco recycles about 75 percent of its waste, so we know that we can do even better.

Boosting recycling offers a host of advantages to Buffalo. In addition to the environmental benefits, it saves the taxpayers money. The city has to pay to dispose of its garbage, but it gets paid a rebate for its recyclables. For this reason, every 1 percent increase in the recycling rate saves the city between $70,000 and $100,000.

Many residents do not know how much they can recycle. Almost every item in your home made of paper, plastic, glass or metal can be recycled. In the old days, many kinds of plastic were not accepted. Now, most are – including yogurt containers, plastic cups and more. Pizza boxes can be recycled, so long as they are clean. Phone books, cereal boxes, old pots and pans – the list of recyclables is long, indeed. Recycling can save residents money, too. By putting more in the recycling tote, they can switch to the smaller size of garbage tote and save money on the city's user fee.

Many businesses, schools and rental property owners do not realize that city law requires them to recycle. Even more importantly, they do not realize that recycling may save them money. For example, the Community Charter School recently learned that it will save more than $3,000 per year by recycling. If you notice a business, school or apartment building that has a dumpster but no recycling bins, please remind them that recycling is legally required, easy and truly beneficial.

City Hall has some important tasks ahead, as well. The city has money budgeted to hire a recycling coordinator and to contract with a firm for an educational campaign, but it has been slow to make the hire and sign the contract. The city has also promised to form an advisory panel on recycling, but has yet to do so. These are simple tasks, already planned and budgeted; now they need to be implemented.

To help Buffalo in its efforts, a Buffalo Recycling Alliance has been formed by the Partnership for the Public Good, Buffalo First, Sierra Club Niagara Group, Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Olmsted Center for Sight. The Alliance has developed educational materials and is making presentations to block clubs and business groups to convey a simple message: When we reduce our waste and increase our recycling, it's a double win for the taxpayers and the environment. More information about the alliance is available at, and all are welcome to join.

Sam Magavern co-directs the Partnership for the Public Good and chairs the Buffalo Recycling Alliance.