About 22 percent of Toledo households have pledged to join the city's curbside recycling program and save themselves $2.50 a month on the new trash collection fee, city officials say.
The number is short of the 40 percent city officials were hoping to enroll, and closer to the 17 percent who had already been recycling.
Residents had until May 31 to send in a pledge card and get the discount retroactive to April 2. As of Friday, 20,048 pledge cards were received.
Bill Franklin, director of the Department of Public Service, said the city still expects to reach the goal of 40 percent participation eventually.
"There's going to be a group of people that it's not going to strike home until it gets on the water bill," he said.
The trash fees will appear for the first time on water bills to be sent out beginning July 1.
Mr. Franklin said the pledge cards are still coming in, but more slowly since the program was rolled out in early April.
City Council approved the $5.50 monthly trash collection fee March 30. The legislation included a discount of $2.50 for residents who pledge to set out a bin of recyclables at least once a month.
City Councilman George Sarantou, chairman of council's finance committee, said more outreach is needed.
"People are busy, and a lot of people just don't have a lot of time to do this. That's why we as a city need to do a better job of communicating with people," Mr. Sarantou said. "I think we can hit 40 percent if we really work at it."
City refuse crews pick up cans, plastic, bottles, newspapers, and cardboard every other week.
Plastic, glass, and metal items must be in a bin that is marked with a sticker available from the city.
The Department of Public Service printed at least 40,000 pledge cards and 20,000 "starter kits" containing recycling directions and stickers to place on a recycling bin.
The cards and starter kits are available at Kroger and The Andersons stores, the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, and from city offices, as well as online at the city's Web site, www.toledo.oh.gov, Mr. Franklin said.
The initial roll-out created confusion as citizens looked for pledge cards and starter kits only to find that some stores they patronized had run out.
Residents are required to give their water and sewer account number, and to acknowledge that if they fail to honor the pledge they could be fined $50.
One of those who was concerned in April about how to sign up for recycling said he's gotten with the program, if not enthusiastically.
"I'm doing it for the discount, and the discount only," said William Hundsrucker, 64, of Northgate Parkway.
He said the few recyclables he places on the curb will have a "negligible" effect in solving the environmental mess man has made.
"It's one snowflake in a worldwide blizzard. That's why I never bothered," he said. But he admitted, "I get a good feeling for doing it."
The fee is projected to generate $2.9 million this year to help bail out the general fund that was threatened with a $17 million deficit. However, the fee will generate more money than expected if fewer than 40 percent of households participate.
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