Small Town, Big Impact: Dacula Saves on Recycling

August 10, 2021

The City of Dacula recently launched its own recycling service aimed to improve customer satisfaction and save taxpayer money.

Dacula's new recycling truck and facility.

To say that residents are passionate about sanitation may be an understatement. Mayor Trey King recalls Saturday mornings spent answering phone calls from Dacula residents whose recycling cans were missed during pickup. The subcontractor was located out of state, and customers wanted someone local to call when problems arose.

“The first opportunity we had, we were going to make some changes and make some improvements,” King said.

Facing a 17% cost increase with the city’s recycling subcontractor, the Dacula City Council agreed to invest in localized service. Planning the new system was a yearlong effort that involved all levels of the city government, King said.

“This wasn’t a decision from the top. Everybody got on board with us, and I think for any city to make it work, this is what it’s going to take,” he said.

The city spent over $300,000 on a recycling truck and 2,500 bins and hired another full-time sanitation employee. Having a supportive council is critical if other cities are to embark on a similar endeavor, according to City Administrator Joey Murphy.

“We have a city council that supports those heavy cash outlays to support the service for the next three to four years,” Murphy said.

Murphy expects a three-year absorption of the startup cost and a $90,000 annual savings for taxpayers. The city managed to cut its cost per ton to approximately one-third of the subcontracted rate.

“Until we took on service ourselves, there was no way we could control that cost,” Murphy said.

Since the service started June 1, the city has focused on a six-month public education campaign to educate residents about the new recycling process. The service is single-source with no separation, but there is a narrow list of what can be included: number 1 and 2 plastic, and metal cans. No Styrofoam. No broken metal lawn chairs. No grocery bags.

“The key is going to be getting the schools to educate the kids,” King said. “Once we get them on board, they’re going to make it happen at home, just like when we were kids we made that happen.”

This article was originally featured in the July/August 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities Magazine.

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