Judy Kress has been recycling since the founding of Earth Day, but in Columbus, she's among a small minority.

Judy Kress has been recycling since the founding of Earth Day, but in Columbus, she's among a small minority.

Compared to other major metropolitan cities in the U.S., Columbus has one of the worst recycling participation rates in the country, city officials said April 29.

They joined Kress at her Clintonville home to stress the importance of recycling while also seeking ways to increase involvement and making it easier for people to participate.

Mayor Michael B. Coleman said that while the city has made great strides in the greening of Columbus, only 5 percent of residents recycle.

Sixty percent of what ends up in the landfill can be recycled, he said.

"Our landfill is going to fill up," Coleman said. "It's going to fill up sooner than later."

Building another one, in today's dollars, would cost $90- to $120-million. In future dollars, it likely will increase to $175- to $200-million, he said.

"That money's not just laying around," he said.

So, the mayor is seeking input on a curbside recycling program that won't cost residents additional money. Coleman is steering people to www.recyclecolumbus.org, where participants are asked seven questions on the subject, from how often they recycle to how often they would like to see curbside recyclables collected. He said the survey will be online until July 1. Meanwhile, the city will mail out 1,200 surveys, seeking recommendations from homeowners.

Coleman said he is opposed to raising taxes to pay for it.

Now, residents must pay $4 a month for curbside recycling or take the material to a drop-off center. The city wants to have the new recycling program in place by 2012, Coleman said. The hope is to divert 35 percent of recyclables away from the landfill, saving the city an estimated $5-million annually.

But there is a silver lining on the subject.

John Remy, spokesman for the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, said recycling has hit record highs in the region. SWACO has 223 drop-off sites throughout the county. In 2009, the authority collected 1,527 tons, 16 percent higher than 2008 and 90 percent better than five years ago. Recycling in the first quarter of this year is 5 percent higher than the first quarter of last year, he said.

"It continues to grow and I think a lot of it has to do with convenience," Remy said. "We have a long way to go. And we need businesses to step up, too."

Kress, who pays for curbside recycling, said she took her queue from performers at the Great Hudson River Revival 40 years ago. The artists urged audience members to clean up after themselves in an ecologically friendly way.

She believes that people constantly have to be reminded on the benefits of recycling.

"People want convenience," she said. "It's worth it because it saves the city money."