Berkeley resident Deirdre McLoughlin won cash for her recycling skills. Photo: Liz Miles

By Julia Musto

A Berkeley resident is among the first to win a cash prize for her impeccable recycling skills.

Deirdre McLoughlin, who lives in central Berkeley, won $50 in the Ready Set Recycle competition organized by StopWaste.Org, an initiative of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board.

StopWaste.Org launched the contest on March 31 to run through June. The competition is designed to encourage and reward residents who “properly sort their household waste, placing recyclables in the recycle bin, compostables in the green bin, and as little material as possible into the garbage bin”.

Bay Area residents can prove their worth and win prizes worth up to $500 in the competition. During garbage collection days, the Ready Set Recycle Prize Crew selects random garbage bins and separates the contents into recyclables, compostables, and garbage; the households with the least amount of recyclables and compostables are declared winners.

The Prize Crew notify residents that they are eligible by leaving a “hangtag”on their garbage can with contest information. Multiple winners are selected each week. There have been 25 winners to date, and McLoughlin is one of several from Berkeley.

McLoughlin was notified she was a winner last week. She offered advice for future contestants: “If you can really pay attention for the first few weeks, pretty soon it really will just become an easy habit that you won’t even notice. Frankly, the other trick is you need to have places in your home for separating the trash — we have the green bin under the sink, and a small box out of the way where we stack newspapers, mail, any scraps of paper.”

Asked what she thought about California’s recycling habits in general and within her community McLoughlin said: “The greatest thing I notice (being a New Jersey native and traveling quite a bit) is that recycling, and recycling everything we can — compost, cans, plastic, paper, etc — has become a way of life for the average Californian. It’s not a ‘hassle’ to do it.”

“I have also noticed a change in myself,” she added. “I do not think I would really self-identify as a strong environmentalist, although when I recently traveled to the Midwest, and in getting off the airplane, I noticed there were no recycling bins. I was shocked and carried my empty water bottle with me until we got to the hotel and I asked them to recycle it. It was amazing to me that there are still parts of the country that do not participate in something so simple for us.”

Jeff Becerra, Senior Communications Manager at StopWaste.Org, said the idea of doing a contest came from StopWaste.Org staff as a way to increase and reward recycling in Alameda County. Alameda County is one of the greenest counties in the country. It currently diverts 69% of its trash from landfill.

“I live in Alameda. It seems to me that living ‘green’ is a high priority for people throughout the Bay Area, including Alameda,” he said. “[Because of the contest] I have been recycling more and more of my food scraps and I’ve seen the volume of my trash go down considerably. More than 20 years ago Alameda County residents voted in their own mandate of diverting 75% of recyclable and compostable materials from the landfill. Our hope is that the Ready Set Recycle contest will increase recycling in the county and help us achieve that goal.”

For more information on Ready Set Recycle, visit StopWaste.Org.

Julia Musto is a student at Head-Royce School and lives in Berkeley. She is senior editor on her school newspaper, “The Hawk’s Eye”, and will be studying journalism at New York University next fall. She is currently interning at Berkeleyside.

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  1. You missed the point.

    The only reason recycling is a viable business is because of CRV.

    When the ecology center distributed their new light blue recycling bins they also stopped collecting certain types of plastics for recycling; in general ones that have no CRV attached to them. This is mainly because of the trashtrolls – they would pick up the CRV recyclables and take them to them even though the ecology center already incurred the cost of driving around to collect them. As a consequence all the plastics the ecology center was collecting had very little value – hence they could not recover costs. This prompted the City of Berkeley to raised trash collection prices twice in the last 18 months. The reason for the rate hike was that prices of recyclable material dropped and they could not recover their costs. I guess now that recyclable prices are up we will not see a refund; except for the trash trolls.

  2. Under your logic you should claim mortgage interest payments on your income taxes because you pay rent. Heck you should also claim homeowner’s insurance, mortgage insurance, and whatever else you think it integrated into your rent. How about all the liability insurance your landlord needs to pay to cover the potential stupidities of renters.

    As matter of fact if property taxes were assessed at the point in time you started paying rent on the value of the property at the time then the property taxes will in general be higher than the actual property taxes paid. In a sense you as a renter take advantage of lower property taxes “incorporated’ into your rent (as you claim) which your landlord is affording you.

    Also every year property taxes go up by the inflation rate; rents go up by a fraction of the inflation rate. In a sense every year you pay less and less of property taxes.

    As a renter you are not equal to a homeowner or landlord; you bare minimal risk. As such you should be thankful and not bashful.

  3. You seem to have misunderstood his comment — He’s not complaining about some little old Asian lady making money off recyclables, he’s complaining about the Ecology Center not being able to recover its costs because someone else is stealing items that the homeowner intends to be given to the Ecology Center. I like what the Ecology Center does, and I’d like for the items I put in my recycling cart to actually make it to them so that they can make some money from what they’re doing.

    The City clearly has no interest in stopping recycling theft, so I’ve started collecting my cans and bottles in a bin in my back yard so that I can take them directly to the Ecology Center. I suggest that others do the same.

  4. Good plan – it’s so much better to fill up our landfills with a bunch of unnecessary stuff that could have been diverted rather than let some guy make a few bucks from your trash! Me, I’d much rather chortle over thwarting trash trolls than get my cans recycled. You betcha…

  5. There is no incentive to recycle. If I recycle the trash trolls that decent on my neighborhood will go through it and pick it out. Then the ecology center does not recover its recycling costs because these recycling bins are empty. Then the City comes around and make me pay more for trash collection. Hence I do not recycle as in doing so I am basically a slave to the trash trolls and on top of it I pay for it.

  6. There is no incentive to recycle. If I recycle the trash trolls that decent on my neighborhood will go through it and pick it out. Then the ecology center does not recover its recycling costs because these recycling bins are empty. Then the City comes around and make me pay more for trash collection. Hence I do not recycle as in doing so I am basically a slave to the trash trolls and on top of it I pay for it.

  7. There is no incentive to recycle. If I recycle the trash trolls that decent on my neighborhood will go through it and pick it out. Then the ecology center does not recover its recycling costs because these recycling bins are empty. Then the City comes around and make me pay more for trash collection. Hence I do not recycle as in doing so I am basically a slave to the trash trolls and on top of it I pay for it.

  8. I asked about paying for trash pickup because some landlords in smaller buildings have tenants get their own accounts with Waste Management, and those folks should definitely be eligible for this. As far as I can tell, you have to actually have a personal account with Waste Management in order to be eligible for these account-related prizes.

    For people who live in apartment complexes and use communal trash containers there’s simply no way for them to accurately gauge how well any one specific individual sorts their trash.

    Corporations taking over the world? Renters treated as less than whole citizens? No offense, but you really seem to have a pretty big chip on your shoulder RE: renter’s issues. I’m pretty sure your vote still counts just as much as mine does.

  9. About the only thing I was still buying that used recyclable material was sparkling water. So about a year ago, I bought a machine to make my own sparkling water so I don’t use all those plastic bottles anymore. I carefully recycle every single thing that is recyclable in Berkeley. I buy only fresh food (so no packaging, except paper to wrap meat and egg cartons, which, of course, I recycle). Nobody keeps their carbon footprint smaller than me. I don’t own a car, only buy local and organic. But as a renter, I am not eligible . . I’ll go over and take the pledge, but will that give me a shot at the fifty dollar prize? It’s not so much about the money. It’s about being recognized as a full fledged member of the community. It you don’t like to see corporations ruling the world, you might also consider the class disparity that significantly impacts our public policies by treating renters as less than whole citizens.

  10. um, if I pay for trash pick up as part of my rent, that means I am paying for the trash pickup. It is a false belief to think the landlord is paying for my trash pickup: I pay with my rent. Many people often also falsely, wrongly believe that renters do not pay property taxes.

    Any cost of maintaining the property that the landlord passes on to her tenants in the form of rent is a cost actually carried by the tenant. Let’s keep that straight in our heads.

    My landlord is very careful about what kind of trash hauling is included in my rent, fyi, and I am not allowed to put some things in the ‘trash’ that other Berkeley residents can for the same price as their regular trash pick up.

    I doubt if my landlord, a large-scale rental property owner, or my property manager, another large scale company managing the property, is eligible.

    I don’t just recycle rigorously, I have begged my landlord to allow the building to have a compost collection bin but the landlord and property manager refuse. About 100 apartments don’t recycle. I also personally volunteered to personally meet with adult residents of every single unit in my building to explain composting. There are empty spaces that could be secured for compost. My property manager actually went to a training class that told her she could save money for her company if she let the building compost. That was two years ago and several hundred families still have no place to put compost.

    Berkeley is supposed to be so cutting edge, esp. on environmental issues. Howsabout working to make it possible for apartment dwellers, who pay property taxes in their rent and garbage disposal fees in their rent and sales taxes whenever they buy food, household goods, etc. . . treat us as equals?

  11. Do you pay for your trash pickup, or is it included in your rent? Your landlord might be eligible for this program if he/she is the one picking up the tab for trash service in your building.

  12. You can definitely still participate! This was taken from the contest website FAQ list:

    “There are two ways to participate:

    All residents (whether or not they receive a hangtag) are encouraged to take the “I Recycle” Pledge online at http://www.ReadySetRecycleContest.Org. By taking the pledge and entering the necessary information, you’ll be eligible for prizes.

    On the website you will also be given the option to volunteer your
    home for a garbage sort. This does not guarantee your garbage will be
    sorted but it will be entered into the random selection process as if
    you had received a hangtag.”

    I encourage you to either of these choices. I hope that helps.


  13. If I didn’t get a tag on my garbage can yet, does that mean I can’t participate in the contest?