FORT WORTH -- As the adage goes, if there's one thing a mayor needs to do, it's make sure that the garbage is picked up on time.
That typically doesn't mean getting your hands dirty and sorting through bags of smelly trash. But that's what Mayor Betsy Price and two other City Council members did Friday to encourage Fort Worth residents to recycle more.
To draw attention to a new partnership with New York-based Recyclebank, which has a rewards program for residents who recycle, a load of trash was dumped in a parking lot just above the Trinity River to demonstrate how many items can be recycled from a typical bag of garbage.
Price and Mayor Pro Tem W.B. "Zim" Zimmerman and Councilman Dennis Shingleton donned gloves and sorted through several bags, finding plastic water bottles and other items that could have been kept out of the trash.
Officials said Fort Worth is diverting only about 23 percent of waste headed to the landfill by using the city's blue recycling carts and yard bags. With the Recyclebank program, officially kicking off April 16, city officials hope to increase that rate to about 40 percent.
"We can do better, and we will do better," Price said.
Recyclebank, which has programs in 300 cities, encourages residents to recycle more of their waste through a system similar to a frequent-flier program. The first year it was in place in Cincinnati, the city saved nearly $1 million in landfill disposal costs.
Residents who sign up are judged by the weight of materials diverted on their garbage route and receive points, said Jonathan Hsu, chief executive officer.
Those points can be used for discounts at restaurants as well as local and national companies. People can also get bonus points by going online to show that they recycled that week and by taking online quizzes.
Recyclebank partners with Waste Management, which has a contract with Fort Worth. Recyclebank gets a portion of the money saved by diverting waste from the landfill and also makes money through partnerships with companies that participate in the program, Recyclebank spokesman Jeff Harse said.
The program is available in about a third of Houston, in Corpus Christi and in some municipal utility districts outside Houston. The largest city participating is Philadelphia.
Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett said the program causes people to think about what they can put in the blue carts.
"It's about changing habits and building momentum," Bennett said.
In 2013, when the city's garbage contract is up for negotiation, Bennett said, the city will have a chance to push for more composting and other techniques to divert waste from the landfill.
Fort Worth residents can sign up for the program by visiting www.recyclebank.com/fortworth or calling 888-727-2978.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698