Whiting, Indiana Reduces City Operating Expenses by Recycling More

Outcomes and Conclusions

Previously, residents were required to carry the recycling from the alleys out to the curb on collection day. The new recycling procedures asked residents to keep the 65-gallon totes in alleys. This process made it easier for residents to add recyclable items throughout the week and made collection more efficient for City employees. City workers collect recyclables once per week from alleys. This new process made recycling more convenient for residents and businesses who no longer needed to keep track of collection schedules. The larger totes permitted more materials to be recycled without taking up more space or requiring more labor. Comingling meant that neither residents nor the recycling collectors had to separate recyclables.

Community surveys from the Program’s first year indicate that more than 80% of residents recycled, an increased compared to previous years, and the amount of material recycled increased 40%. The decrease in landfill-bound trash allowed the City to convert one of their garbage trucks into a recycling truck. The increase in recycling saved the City $75,000 in 2006.

Because Whiting began using the services of a materials recovery facility, City workers no longer had to spend time sorting the recycling. The time-savings allowed the City to reemploy one employee from the garbage/recycling route to the Street Department.

Holidays and poor weather conditions no longer affect the City’s collection schedule. Since the totes are always located in their pick-up location, City employees resume the collection route at their discretion without needing to conform to strict schedules or inform the community of changes.

In 2007, Whiting won the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns Community Achievement award for their Alley Recycling Program.

Ten years after the Program launched, the City has had to order very few replacement totes. They are durable enough to remain reliable over time.


The biggest challenge the City experienced with the Alley Recycling Program was educating the public. Anytime municipalities make a change to a public process, it is important that the City invests in buy-in from residents and commercial businesses to ensure an improved outcome.

In subsequent years, Whiting has implemented educational programs to continually remind residents how to avoid cross-contamination of trash and recycling. The City has used door hangers and notes to educate individual residents or businesses as needed.

City of Whiting Director of Green Initiatives Mark Harbin stated, "If I had to do it all over again, I would distribute 96-gallon totes instead of 65-gallon totes. At the time, we did not anticipate that the community would increase their recycling volume as much as they did. However, if any resident or business has more items to recycle than one tote will accommodate, the City will bring them an additional tote at no cost. Some businesses have up to 10 recycling totes.”