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In Bay State, Recycling Information Is at Your Fingertips

MASSACHUSETTS has the ``number'' on recycling.

The state's 6 million residents now have access to ``E-Call, The Ecology Hotline,'' a 24-hour statewide recycling phone service. E-Call was unveiled last week in Boston.

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The No. 1 reason people do not recycle is because they do not have easy access to information about how to do it, says Matthew Costello, a Boston-based recycling consultant and executive director and creator of E-Call.

The city of Boston, for example, has seven separate recycling centers, all with different collection schedules. E-Call's primary purpose is to make recycling less confusing by providing state residents with up-to-date recordings on the ``who, what, where, when, why, and how'' of recycling programs in their communities, Mr. Costello says.

The program, which is entirely funded with grants from the business community, is projected to cost about $85,000 a year for the first four years, Costello says.

To access the information hotline, callers dial the hotline number and punch in their five-digit ZIP code. The system provides them with detailed information about the recycling center that corresponds to that ZIP code, such as the kinds of materials the centers accept and the hours they are open.

In turn, local recycling coordinators no longer have to field repetitive questions, Costello says. E-Call also will help the state recycle 50 percent of its waste by 2000 - a goal recently set by the state's Department of Environmental Protection.

It took E-Call - the only recycling hotline of its kind in the country - three years to get off the ground, says Costello, who runs the organization with 40 volunteers. Cities such as Atlanta and Indianapolis have similar recycling hotlines, but their services are not community-specific. A resident might end up driving 12 miles across town to recycle waste, and that, Costello says, could deter people from recycling altogether.

AT&T, the major backer of E-Call, has contributed $40,000 to the program's launch, says Paul Karoff, AT&T's public affairs director. Mr. Karoff says he hopes E-Call will someday serve as a model for a national program. ``We're not talking about creating a lot of paper brochures or other educational materials extolling the virtues of recycling, which ultimately will become part of the [recycling] problem,'' he says. ``[E-Call] is a nice, ecologically friendly approach to recycling.''

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The American Plastics Council in Washington, a nonprofit organization that helps the plastics industry promote recycling, is another E-call financial supporter. The group praises the hotline for helping to educate consumers about recycling and says education is the key to success. Between 1990-95, the plastics industry will spend $1.2 billion on plastics recycling, says spokesman Jimmy Hendricks.

``By becoming educated, [residents] will put in what's being collected and not put in what's not being collected,'' Mr. Hendricks says. ``This reduces costs at the recyclers' operations, thus reducing costs on up the line.''

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Boston-based Gillette Company, Anheuser-Busch Recycling Corporation, and Massachusetts Electric Company are among some of the other companies that have agreed to support the project in its first year.

Costello says he expects small businesses in Massachusetts to provide funding for the second, third, and fourth years of the project. So far, E L Harvey and Sons, in Westboro, Mass., one of the state's leading recycling companies, has pledged to cover costs for the towns it serves, Costello says.

* To access E-Call in Massachusetts, dial 1-800-800-6881 or, within the 617 area code, dial RECYCLE (732-9253).

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