North Miami is working toward a green future with new high-tech recycling bins decked out with solar panels, LED lighting and space for advertising.
The GoGreen-EcoBins, part of a program that launched Nov. 12, were provided without cost to the city. Instead, the company makes money via sponsorships.
“They try to encourage recycling not just from city hall or the businesses, but also from the residents,” said Tanya Wilson, North Miami’s director of community planning and development. “It’s pretty state of the art, it’s eye-catching. When you see it you’re going to notice it there.”
The difference between EcoBins and regular recycling containers is the design, which uses sustainable materials and features advertising space. The ads can be used by the city or local charities free of charge or by businesses that sponsor the bins. The bins also have solar panels on top that power LED lighting at night and are made out of recyclable stainless steel.
Guy Strempack, the founder of GoGreen, said the company reaches out to local businesses, such as restaurants and realtors, and asks whether they would like to sponsor a bin. He said the price has yet to be set in North Miami, as it varies based on the local market.
“Without these local businesses getting involved and saying, ‘Hey I’m going to choose you over … spending my budget on YouTube or Instagram,’ that says something, and it makes us feel proud, and it makes them feel proud,” he said.
The recycling business, as a whole, however, has hit some snags following the so-called China Ban. For over 25 years, China had taken nearly half the world’s recyclables and processed them, but in early 2018 it banned the importation of any recycling, claiming its processing system had been overwhelmed.
Many countries that shipped their trash to China did not have enough processing plants of their own, including the United States. This has led to more plastic ending up in landfills and incinerators rather than being recycled, even when people try to recycle correctly.
“We’re trying to figure out where to send recyclables or how we build that infrastructure here in the U.S.,” said Strempack.
He said his company has partnered with Lady Green, a Miami-based recycling company, to make sure items that come into the EcoBins are actually processed.
Michelle Salas, the founder and president, said the problem with the current system is that much of what is being put into cans is contaminated. For example, pizza boxes that have grease on them cannot be recycled as the oil cannot be processed.
Lady Green’s solution for this, she said, is sorting the recycling and only sending uncontaminated materials to be processed at a waste management facility here in Miami.
Despite the China Ban, Salas said there is still a market for uncontaminated recycling. She said Colombia has recently started accepting recyclables after losing Venezuela’s business due to that country’s current political instability.
“There is still a percentage that’s significant that is being recycled,” said Salas.
Besides recycling, Strempack said one of the goals with the bins is to grab people’s attention and hopefully get them to educate themselves on recycling.
“For us, I think it’s about education,” he said. “It’s showing people something on the street where they can walk up and ask themselves questions and say ‘well that’s pretty cool, maybe I should look into solar lights in front of my house.’”
Wilson said the EcoBins program is part of a larger effort by North Miami to become a more resilient and sustainable city. But, she said, it really starts with educating residents.
“Those that are informed get involved, [others] don’t. Not because they’re not interested, I just don’t think they have been educated enough to understand the urgency…to be a partner in the process,” she said.