NEWTON — A city ban on putting recyclables in the trash is hitting some residents in the pocketbook.
With a population of about 18,000, the city issued 1,405 violations in the first six months of the year to residents who did everything from carelessly tossing soda cans in the trash to putting lawn clippings in garbage bins.
Fifty of those cases went to court, where most ended in guilty or no-contest pleas and fines of about $25.
"Just throwing something in the trash is no longer a no-brainer," said city engineer Suzanne Loomis.
Mandatory recycling went into effect more than two years ago, and Loomis is happy to see compliance with the ordinance grow.
The city has been able to divert more than 20 percent of its trash from the Harvey County Transfer Station and save money. Disposal rates at the transfer station are $28 a ton, but rates at the Harvey County Recycling and Sorting Facility are only $15 a ton.
"I think that's pretty good when you're dealing with the habits and actions of roughly 18,000 people," Loomis said. "It's really hard to educate folks and make this a routine at their house."
The incentive of avoiding a fine is helping to make recycling a natural action, Loomis said.
"I think recycling is becoming more the norm for the people of Newton," she said.
City Environmental Inspector Nolan Dealy documents the actions of repeat violators. He takes the pictures of garbage and gathers evidence against those who appear in municipal court after they are given three violation notices.
No one digs through curbside garbage, but if collectors find bags heavy with clanking glass or cans visible in bins, they leave the trash as well as a written notice.
Newton has been taking triple-violators to court for less than a year, giving residents about two years to adapt to the new ordinance, adopted in late 1999.