— Brian Ziegler, PE, director, Pierce County Public Works and Utilities, Tacoma, Wash.

Editor's note: We appreciate your sharing with us. For another insightful mission statement, read Nasser Abbaszadeh's team-building article, “Satisfaction in action,” on page 35 of this issue.

Blue in the face

Editor's note: In our December 2006 issue, PUBLIC WORKS reported on the impending end of Chicago's blue-bag recycling program (“Bye-bye, blue bags,” page 15). Our researched reports indicated that Chicago was the last major American city to use the technique. A number of readers were kind enough to write in and correct us. Read on:

I was rather surprised to see that the article on the end of Chicago's blue-bag recycling stated that “no major U.S. cities use blue-bag recycling.” In Baltimore, we have had “blue-bag” recycling for over a decade. As a matter of fact, we have just mailed out our award-winning 2007 DPW Calendar, which lists the “blue-bag” (actually, now we allow any translucent or clear bags to be used) days and paper collection days.

— Kurt Kocher, spokesman, department of public works, Baltimore

We like to think that Dallas, the ninth-largest city in the United States, qualifies as major—and Dallas has recycled with blue bags for more than a decade. Chicago selected a unique recycling program, mixing the blue bags in with the waste and separating it all out later—a system with unusual operational challenges. But large cities can and have found success with blue bags. Dallas has about a 26% household participation rate. While the diversion rate is hardly earth-shaking, the cost of recycling has been gentle on the ratepayers—around $0.79 per household per month for weekly curbside collection. Dallas is further aiming to increase its recycling figures by offering residents rollcarts in place of the blue bags. The cart is both convenient and roomy; we plan to see some big changes in our recycling figures.

— Mary Nix, director of sanitation services, Dallas