- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Mall is finally getting a recycling program.

Officials said Wednesday that the effort would begin with a study of how much of the nearly four tons of trash generated each day can be salvaged and reused.

A $1.1 million gift from Coca-Cola Co. will jump-start the effort and help the Mall catch up with other urban parks across the country. This summer, the National Park Service and its fundraising partners will study the waste generated to see how many and where recycling bins are needed. They hope to begin putting out bins by October.

“This is the icon of democracy, and it should reflect the best practices that we have to offer as a country,” said Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall, a nonprofit group that raises private money to support the Mall’s upkeep.

The Park Service has been slow to get the Mall to go green, crippled in part by a $390 million backlog on maintenance for the grounds and monuments that stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. Parks in other cities, such as Atlanta’s sprawling Piedmont Park, already have recycling bins placed beside nearly every trash can.

The Mall attracts about 25 million visitors a year - more than Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon combined. Almost none of the trash visitors leave behind is recycled, except for efforts during some major events.

“We recognize that we can do a better job with recycling wherever we are throughout the country,” said Dan Wenk, acting director of the National Park Service. “We would hope that we would make recycling easy for people on the national Mall - that we don’t provide an excuse for them to toss something away that won’t be recycled.”

Organizers are discussing whether revenue could be generated by recycling the tons of bottles, cans and other materials left behind to help fund the upkeep, Mr. Wenk said.

Coca-Cola is providing $500,000 as a down payment for the recycling program and $600,000 to support programs at the Mall and other parks, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California and Olympic National Park in Washington state.

“We believe that our national parks should be enjoyed by every American,” said Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America. “We share a responsibility together to protect the environment and to conserve our natural resources.”

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