Office of Sustainability Newsroom

New Pilot Program to Boost Recycling Rate Toward 90 Percent

Monday March 31, 2014

Mayor Greg Fischer today officially launched a pilot program that is expected to increase recycling rates in the downtown Central Business District to about 85 percent. The current recycling rate is just 11 percent.

The large boost in recycling will be made possible by a switch to a “Wet-dry” sorting system that will prevent most “dry” recyclable materials from being mixed with or spoiled by “wet” materials that are not recyclable.

It is the first municipal program of its kind in the region and among a very few in the entire country. A Wet-dry system allows us to think of what we have long thought of as garbage as a resource instead.

Wet waste includes things like food, liquids and used paper towels, the kinds of materials generated in break rooms and restrooms. Dry waste is just about everything else—paper, plastic, glass and similar materials. Dry waste is most of what businesses generate, and up to 90 percent of it can be recycled instead of going to the landfill.

There is a special component of the pilot specifically for restaurants and coffee shops, which have a higher proportion of wet waste.

The Wet-dry pilot is part of Fischer’s plan to increase recycling in Louisville by 25 percent by next year and divert at least half of the city’s solid waste away from the landfill by 2025. The long term goal is to divert 90 percent of waste from the landfill by 2042.

This pilot comes a year after the city’s Office of Sustainability released the Sustain Louisville plan aimed at generating environmentally sound programs and policies. “This new program gets us moving in high gear toward the goal of delivering a clean and prosperous city to future generations,” Fischer said.

The Solid Waste Management Services Division of Louisville’s Department of Public Works has teamed with QRS Recycling to create and manage the pilot. Vanessa Burns, director of Public Works, explained that businesses will put wet waste in black plastic bags and put dry waste in clear plastic bags. Both bag types will be put out in a single orange garbage cart that will be taken to QRS’s recycling facility for processing.

Restaurants, which have a much higher volume of food waste than other businesses, will put that food waste in special brown carts that will be kept in their kitchen areas. Dry waste from restaurants will go into orange carts just like at other businesses. Detailed information about the Wet-dry recycling program is at