After a decade of throwing everything in the trash, Ray Gresham took the initiative last month to begin recycling.
After all, beginning in July, Gresham was paying for a countywide trash service that included recycling and he wanted to get his money's worth.
So stacks of newspapers piled up and plastic bottles lined his carport, while he waited for two recycling bins he requested from his new trash provider. And Gresham waited and waited, calling the county about a dozen times for help.
Finally, the Lawrenceville man put his papers and plastic out in a cardboard box marked "recycling," but he said he was discouraged when he watched the garbage men empty the box into their truck then add the contents of his trash bin.
"They just put it in a garbage truck," he said. "I don't mind paying for something, but I'm paying full price and getting half the service."
According to Gwinnett government spokesman Joe Sorenson, even though recycling was one of the main focuses of the county's new trash plan, there have been some kinks in the new service. Many people, he admitted, are still awaiting bins, but placing recyclables out in a clearly marked box should get them to their destination. That is, if people follow the rules on recycling.
"A lot of people are new to recycling," Sorenson said. "(Trash hauling companies) spent a lot of money on gearing up, but they've got to do it right. They can't have contaminated recycling or they can't send it to where it's supposed to go."
If trash haulers can look into a recycling bin and see nonrecyclables inside or other problems, they will put the items in the trash, he said, adding that the county is interested in creating an awareness campaign to solve the problem.
"We're going to have to work on a culture here."
Here are some tips from Gwinnett government officials on making sure recyclables make it to the carpet factory, paper plant or other place where they are converted into new materials.
* Residents can use their own container for recyclables, as long as it is clearly marked "recyclables."
* Trash haulers won't collect recyclables placed in plastic bags because those bags cannot be recycled at the curb.
* Break down large cardboard boxes for recycling.