The ‘Can Man’ can: City enters recycling contest

Eunice Lee

Organizers of Evanston CAN Recycle have only one goal in mind this month: beat Des Plaines.

For the second year in a row, Evanston will be competing in the U.S. Conference of Mayors Cans for Cash program, in which several cities will compete for up to $10,000 to enhance the their recycling programs. The city, along with Keep Evanston Beautiful, a partner in the Keep America Beautiful initiative, is sponsoring Evanston’s participation in the event.

As part of this competition, Evanston CAN Recycle will measure the quantity of recycled goods during the month of October and campaign throughout to get residents to recycle.

Evanston will be competing in Division Three along with other cities with populations between 50,000 and 99,999. Des Plaines, Ill. topped the division last year with more than one million pounds recycled. Surpassing Des Plaines, which is a 30 minute drive west of Evanston, is the city’s ultimate goal, said Carolyn Collopy, Sustainable Programs Coordinator for the city.

“I think Evanston can definitely do it,” she said. “We look forward to seeing the numbers and hope that we beat our number from last year.”

Though Evanston’s numbers were humble last year, the city received a $5,000 prize for their innovation in marketing the contest to residents, said Suzette Eggleston, superintendent of Evanston’s Streets and Sanitation Department.

“Can Man,” the city’s recycling mascot, made an appearance at the Green Living Festival last year to encourage people to recycle as part of this campaign. “Ricky Recycle,” the recycling mascot of Keep Evanston Beautiful, also made appearances at a local grocery store to promote the cause.

“Once we won for innovation more people have been paying attention,” Eggleston said. “The goal is that each year that we do it, more and more people will be aware of it and participate.”

To up the stakes, the city is sponsoring an in-house competition where the four garbage and recycling routes will compete with each other to be the first area in the community to convert their recycling bins to new, higher-capacity carts. Currently, residents use uncovered 18 gallon containers to dispose of recyclables.

The city hopes to exchange all of these bins for either 65 gallon or 95 gallon rolling cart bins within the next four years.

Organizers hope that this contest and other educational efforts will increase Evanston’s recycling capacity. After last year’s efforts, the city raised their recycling quantity by five percent. Their goal is to match that increase this year, Eggleston said.

“We still have some areas where participation is not as high as we would like,” Eggleston said. “This is why we want to do one garbage route at a time so we can have a focus education group for a small group. It’s more manageable and it’ll get more results.”

The city plans to update material posted online and improve community education about the environment and recycling, Collopy said.

“There’s always room for improvement,” she said. “And education is needed to bridge that gap.”

Aside from the neighborhood pride and prize money at stake, this initiative is important for its environmental impact and awareness, said Evanston Mayor Lorraine Morton.

“It really helps us all around,” she said. “Not only are we raising money for the city, but we’re contributing to a national movement, and we’re very pleased to be a part of that.”

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