Memphis seems to have OK recycling programs for a city in this region, although still not that great in general. One thing that I found frustrating is the requirement to cut down corrugated.
The Memphis recycling rules require that all corrugated be cut down to smaller than 24x48 (inches).
The instructions are in a PDF file which is linked to from the Memphis Solid Waste Management recycling page. As if making recyclers rip or cut every piece of corrugated wasn't annoying enough, their website can't even have simple instructions on one page but makes you download a separate PDF document with the corrugated instructions...
Since we recently moved, we of course have lots of corrugated. I work from home, and my office faces the street - so the first week we were here I saw that the recycling people completely ignored our neatly broken down boxes in a pile next to our recycling bin. That is when I went to the Memphis site to find out why, and read that our boxes - although they were broken down - were definitely wider than 24 inches. This week, I cut all the boxes to smaller sections, and the recycling people took them all. While I feel this is a stupid rule - as other cities have clearly figured out how to recycle boxes larger than 24 inches - it is not my main concern for this post.
My main concern is that it seems many residents don't know this (reality check, most residents probably don't care).
Here is the problem: the trash collectors are very good. Back in Portland, if you left trash on the curb which was not in your recycling container or your trash container, the Portland trash collectors would leave it there. Everything had to be in the containers (which were very large so there was lots of room). Here in Memphis, the trash collectors pick up everything that is on the curb. In our neighborhood they have picked up appliances, tree branches, you name it - they pick it up.
You might see where this is heading.
A resident thinks they are being all "green" by putting their corrugated boxes out to be recycled. They head off to work or wherever, and the recycling people come by and ignore the corrugated because they are too large. The trash people come by and pick up all the trash, including the corrugated, and send it off to landfill. Then the residents come home, all the boxes are gone - so they think they must have been recycled and they are none the wiser. Yay environment!
Heading in and out of our neighborhood, it appears that a LOT of people put out corrugated. But I am sure most of them don't know that it is just being thrown in the garbage and taken to landfill. Of course there is the real possibility that all those people don't care as long as it is hauled away - but I would like to believe that most people at least try to recycle as long as it doesn't take too much effort, and it seems like they wouldn't bother having the corrugated laid out in a separate pile if they were expecting it to just go to landfill.
So, in Memphis there may be a lot of people who think they are recycling their corrugated, but instead are simply throwing nicely organized piles of corrugated into the trash.
Hey Memphis, how about figuring out how to take a little bit larger slices of corrugated, or at least tell the garbage folks to not pick up the piles of corrugated on the curb...
Till then, I'm fixin' to learn mah neighbors on how tuh slice up them boxes real neat like.
(How was that? I am working on my Tennessee lingo...)