UPDATE: Lincoln, NE is set to ban cardboard from its landfills pending the expected approval of a council ordinance next month, as reported by the Lincoln Journal Star. The city sends an estimated 19,000 tons of cardboard to its landfill every year. If the ordinance is passed, residents will have to arrange for curbside pickup or take the cardboard to expanded drop-off locations starting in April 2018.
This ban will also cover any waste brought to the city landfill from other municipalities so it will have wider effects throughout the region. While no criminal penalties will be attached to the ban and many haulers already offer curbside recycling this policy is still expected to boost diversion rates.
Mayor Chris Beutler previously advocated for the proposal last year and vetoed a council ordinance which didn't include it. Volunteers later began gathering signatures to get the cardboard ban on the ballot for city elections in May, but council members have since worked out a compromise.
- The City Council of Lincoln, NE passed a new recycling ordinance on Monday that removed a landfill ban on cardboard and paper from Mayor Chris Beutler's original proposal. Beutler and others have said that without the ban, recycling rates are unlikely to improve.
- Lincoln's current diversion rate is 22%, but one aide to the mayor estimated that number could have doubled to 44% if the ban was included. The current ordinance is expected to raise diversion rates by 1-3%.
- The bill does require private haulers to offer curbside recycling. The companies will also be required to provide information on the number of customers served and pounds of material diverted.
The possibility of a ban has been debated for months, and received public support at hearings, but was eventually overruled by the council's Republican majority. Democrats unsuccessfully argued for a two-week delay to address concerns raised by landlords and real estate agents. Ultimately, the bill's supporters framed it as an issue of government overreach and personal freedom.
"This ordinance was really a heavy hand of government just coming down, and really squashing individualism. I think it's much better to encourage responsible behavior," said Republican Councilman Jon Camp.
This move will likely result in the loss of two state recycling grants worth nearly $340,000. One would have bought additional containers for Lincoln's free drop-off sites and another would have helped educate residents on the ban. Mayor Beutler told KLKN-TV that the move was "fiscally irresponsible" and hasn't ruled out vetoing the ordinance.
Material bans can be contentious, but usually more so around organic waste than other recyclables. In this case many local officials were in agreement that mandating cardboard recycling could extend the local landfill's lifespan and potentially save the city money. Domestic recovery rates for corrugated cardboard have reached record highs and the material has remained more valuable than others during recent commodity shifts.