CAPITOLA -- Lisa Murphy had great expectations when Capitola entered a national recycling competition in July offering a $100,000 grant for a sustainability project, but as of the beginning of the month, the seaside city of 9,900 ranked 48th out of 50 participating communities.
The leader in the SC Johnson Recyclebank Challenge is Lakes at Red Rock, Va., followed by Huntington Woods, Mich., and Horace, N.D.
Capitola, the only city in California to compete, is ahead of Rapid City, S.D., and Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
All the communities in the competition have a population of fewer than 10,000.
The city of Capitola has a commission on the environment advising city leaders, and the City Council banned polystyrene and required all takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable so as to protect the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
But this recycling challenge has been a challenge.
For recycling efforts to be counted, residents must go online to www.recyclebank.com, register and then report their recycling. The challenge uses the honor system.
"The response has not been as high as I had hoped," said Murphy, who is the city's administrative services manager. "To move up the ranks, people need to sign up and report once a month that they recycled. It is so easy."
Other communities have seen leadership from the next generation. In Indian Harbor Beach, Fla., which ranks
Murphy's latest strategy is to reach out to the environmental club at New Brighton Middle School in Capitola, which has sent a flier home to families telling them about the recycling challenge.
She also put information about the contest in the city's "Wasteline" newsletter and is connecting with Save Our Shores, a local environmental nonprofit, to get the word out.
To participate in the challenge, go to www.recyclebank.com.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz on Twitter at Twitter.com/jondigumz