Lawrence reduced the amount of solid waste it sends to the landfill in the last few years, and trash officials say consumers have the ultimate responsibility to continue the downward trend.
According to an April 1992 report prepared by the city's sanitation division, landfilling fell from 46,970 tons in 1989 to 46,732 tons in 1990 and 45,796 tons in 1991.
Patricia Marvin, Lawrence's recycling coordinator, said local industry has reduced its share of solid waste, partly through the efforts of a corporate committee of the Recycling and Resource Conservation Advisory Board.
Laurie Marlowe, who serves on the committee on behalf of Quaker Oats, said the company has nearly halved the amount of solid waste it sends to the landfill every month.
"In one month, we reduced it from 36 tons to 18 tons," she said. "The next month it went back up to 20 tons, but it will fluctuate."
The committee helped Quaker find a better way of disposing of about 300 metal drums that it previously crushed in a trash compactor. A representative of Kansas University heard about the barrels through the committee and asked if KU could use them as aluminum can collection recepticles.
"This way, there just aren't one or two areas in one of the (campus) buildings," Marlowe said. "They're all up and down the halls. And it created two more jobs for students," who take the cans to recyclers.
The corporate committee meets quarterly. Its next meeting will be in July.
The city and county also have teamed up to reduce the amount of hazardous waste that people unknowingly throw away every day, referred to as household hazardous waste.
Beginning on May 1, people may take chemicals such as cleaning supplies and old paint on selected weekends to a collection site at the Douglas County Public Works shop, 23rd Street and the Sante Fe tracks.
Some of the waste, such as old paint, will be recycled, and the unrecyclable waste will be incinerated.
"There are things in your utility closet under your own sink that really shouldn't be arbitrarily thrown into the waste stream," said Frank Hempen, Douglas County Public Works director.
Brochures with a comprehensive list of dangerous household products and ways of disposing, reusing or avoiding them are available at the city recycling office on the third floor of city hall.
Marvin of the recycling office said consumers had the ultimate power to reduce the solid waste stream in Lawrence.
She picks up a set of new typewriter ribbons to demonstrate her point. They are wrapped in a sealed plastic bag. She rips open the plastic bag, and underneath is a second, hard plastic shell packaging the ribbons.
"I'm going to write a letter about this," she said. "The consumer has much more power than they dream... Little kids saying 'no bag' when they buy a hamburger, that's power."