Starting a Recycling Program
Establishing a community recycling program is a wise investment in the local and regional economy, a strong commitment to reducing energy needs, and an effective way of preserving our environment. Even with the best intentions, getting started can be daunting. This collection of materials is meant to help communities establish a strong, vibrant collection program.
Case Study: City of Griffin - A Glimpse at Starting From Scratch
Did you know that Griffin, Georgia, is the only city in Georgia that requires residential recycling? Under the leadership of Solid Waste Director Kevin Barkley, the city developed the framework for their first curbside recycling service in 2007. Initially, Griffin residents could only recycle newspapers, but the solid waste team knew that to have the recycling results they wanted, mandatory residential and commercial recycling would be the answer. Although commercial customers can choose from non-government operated vendors, those using the city’s waste service must also recycle.
Griffin officials approved measures to make mandatory recycling a reality and curbside pickup began in March 2007. The city invested in and distributed 7,500, 35-gallon roll cart containers to every single-family residential dwelling unit and every city business using garbage containers issued by the city. A recycling guide was embossed into the top of the containers with instructions on what recyclables may be placed in the roll carts. The city also implemented a commingled system (residents can mix materials in their bin) to make recycling easy for residents and increase participation.
Under the mandatory recycling program, City of Griffin Solid Waste customers are required to place their recycling container on the curb next to their garbage container. In order to have trash collected, residents must place items in the recycling container as well. If a customer fails to include recyclable items in their recycling container, then trash pickup will not occur and will result in a warning and/or contact from the Solid Waste Department. The city does not require additional fees for recycling, but uses the revenue from recycling to help offset the costs.
In the months following Griffin’s initial launch of curbside service, Kevin Barkley noticed the following:
- Higher recycling percentages, meaning the number of tons recycled versus the number of tons disposed as waste, corresponded with routes where residents are wealthier and more educated.
- An estimated $35,000 in city savings will be realized in its first year through deferred landfilling and hauling costs. The savings do not include the revenue made by recycling commodities, which is used to offset program costs.
- According to early solid waste reports, approximately 19% of the solid waste stream is currently being recycled in the city, while efforts to improve areas of poor performance could impact the recycling percentage significantly.
So what’s next for Griffin? Seeing the value of recycling in their community and beyond, the city is working to become a transportation hub for the recycling industry and provide an outlet for municipal and commercial recycling across a 50 miles radius.
Checklist for Starting a Recycling Program: Work through these elements before plowing ahead.
A. Establish a Recycling Team
B. Assess and Identify Program Supporters
C. Determine Scope and Assess Your Waste
D. Evaluate Options and Set Reduction Goals
E. Outline the Role of the Intended Recycling Coordinator
A. Establish a Recycling Team
When setting out to develop a community recycling program, there are many components to be considered. From markets to collection bins, equipment to outreach, a strong hauler contract to budgets, it can get overwhelming. A recycling team, or steering committee, may be what your community needs to remain organized. A recycling team is tasked with the coordination of all recycling initiatives and manages the who, what, when and where of recycling in the community.
A recycling coordinator or main point of contact (POC) for the program should be responsible for keeping the eventual goals of the program in mind and ensure that the recycling program is running as efficiently as possible. In the case of larger communities, a team of organizers may be necessary to keep recycling initiatives on track.
What components should the team consider as they develop their programmatic goals? Community Recycling: A Manual for Planning and Operating a Recycling Center produced by the Kentucky Recycling and Marketing Assistance outlines the five components of a recycling program.
1. Markets: In the Southeast, demand for recyclables outweighs supply. Many reclaimers are pulling recycled commodities from out of the region or even the country to meet demand for materials. This means that markets for your materials are strong and are expected to remain strong. Keep in mind that full tractor trailer loads of sorted, baled materials are going to bring the best price. Before jumping into the world of balers, however, consider how your collection approach (commingled curbside, commingled curb sort, drop off centers, sorting facilities) will affect your ability to market materials. Mississippi maintains a helpful list of common recycling equipment.
2. Materials: The most common materials collected in a community program include aluminum and steel food containers, #1 (PET) an #2 (HDPE) plastic bottles and jugs, glass bottles and jars, and paper (newspaper, mixed paper, fiberboard or chipboard, and/or cardboard). Check with your state recycling office to see restrictions, laws, or ordinances about other materials such as yard waste, compost, construction and deconstruction (C&D) waste, white goods (large appliances), household hazardous wastes, and tires.
3. Collection System: Your state recycling office may be able to provide collection information on communities of similar size. This information will help you shape your collection system. Other questions to consider include: Will your community collect curb side or with drop off centers? Will you include businesses? What level of sorting will you implement? How can you get the quickest return on equipment? Would a contracted hauler be the best bet for your community? For help when comparing curbside and drop off center collection techniques, refer to Mississippi’s Community Recycling Guide.
4. Processing Center: In order for materials to get from your program to a reprocessor, there’s some level or organization that must be involved. Will your community sort all, some or none of the material? Again, your state recycling office can help consider your options.
5. Organizational Structure: Contract management, budgeting, education and outreach, receiving of revenue, paying of bills, personnel management, scheduling of deliveries, shipping of materials—these are all potential components of a recycling program.
We will delve into each of these points in more detail throughout the rest of this document.
Case Study: Broward County, Florida Tackles ElectronicsBroward County, Florida's Waste and Recycling Services has provided residents with a program to dispose of electronics to help address one of the newest challenges in environmentally friendly waste disposal. Since 2001, more than 1.2 million pounds of unwanted electronics have been recovered, including 100,000 pounds of lead.
B. Assess and Identify Program Supporters
Who are the cheerleaders for recycling and beautification in your community?
One of the key elements for a successful recycling program is the support that it receives. Try to identify organizations that are dedicated to recycling initiatives and look for opportunities to partner with them on future projects. Not only will these organizations provide experience and insight, they will also have an energetic and passionate group of potential marketers and participants. Their interest in your community's recycling objectives can make a remarkable difference in the success of your program.
Next, find out which community leaders are in line with your objectives and can act as your champion. It is critical to develop a network of local and state leaders who can provide the guidance and assistance you will need to fund your recycling initiatives and break down any barriers your community may face when starting a program. Don't hesitate to share your objectives with others and encourage them to support a new recycling program. Listen to advice and do your best to address any concerns or ideas others may have when developing your final plan.
State Recycling Assistance Programs for Local Government
EPA Region 4 maintains a list of state contacts. These state level recycling assistance programs are a communities best resource.
The Recycling Marketing Cooperative of Tennessee provides marketing support to county, city, and business recycling programs throughout Tennessee.
The Kentucky Recycling and Marketing Assistance (KRMA) assists local governments in development of recycling infrastructures. Senate Bill (SB) 50, enacted in 2006, amended House Bill (HB) 174 authorizing a portion of the funding generated through the $1.75 environmental remediation fee to be used for recycling and household hazardous waste grants. The first recycling grants were awarded in June 2007. The cabinet anticipates growth in recycling infrastructures due in large part to the funding authorized by the General Assembly and the support of local governments.
The State of Georgia is developing a hub collection program by issuing grants to establish collection hubs in Bulloch County, Griffin, Savannah, and Valdosta/Lowndes County. Hub collection allows rural recycling programs to pool materials, increase efficiency, and hopefully expand services.
North Carolina Local Government Assistance Team is a unique team of analysts with solid waste and recycling backgrounds in both the public and private sectors. Their knowledge and experience enables them to make suggestions to improve overall program performance for local governments. The Team also hosts educational workshops on various hot topics, such as pay-as-you-throw programs and full cost accounting.
When possible, establish partner organizations, such as Keep America Beautiful chapters, to help relay your recycling messages to the community. Some well-funded programs may be able to contract with a recycling specialist to enhance their program and help with day-to-day management. Consider putting out a request for proposals (RFP) with your municipality to provide professional recycling services. A state or neighboring program may also be good resources to provide insight on the process to request professional services for recycling.
If your community is small and funding is limited, try to find a passionate volunteer to help with the foundation of the program. You can also try to identify a current employee who has a special interest in recycling. If there is a small budget available, hiring a student intern may be the best way to begin researching and designing the foundation of your program.
C. Determine Scope and Assess Your Waste
Generally, starting small and then expanding your program once the basic components are in place is the best approach to starting from scratch. Trying to do too much at once becomes overwhelming quickly and prevents efficiency. Start by determining the scope of your recycling program and keep the scope as focused as possible. You can always expand the scope once you have mastered the basic tiers. Consider the following questions:
- Do you have recycling drop-off centers in place? Where are they located? Have you thought about placing them in more strategic areas with greater visibility? If not, why not start there.
- What about annual recycling campaigns, such as phonebook and electronic recycling drives? Why not partner with neighboring towns to deflect collection costs?
- Are you ready to begin curbside recycling?
- Do you want to focus on recycling at government facilities only, or extend recycling to the community, including the suburbs or rural areas?
- How will you address multifamily housing and the expected space restraints that often exist in these developments?
Once you have determined the scope of your program, then you should address the next question.
What do you plan to recycle? It is important to know what type of potential recyclables your community generates and which ones are generated the most. To do this, it may be helpful to conduct a waste assessment in your community. Records examinations, touring the community, and waste studies are three common approaches to conducting a waste assessment. Your assessment might require just one of these activities or a combination of approaches. The recycling team should determine which assessment is best for your community based on factors such as complexity of the waste stream, resources (money, time, labor, equipment) available to implement the waste reduction program, and scope of your waste reduction program. Mississippi’s Material Density Conversion Chart may help your evaluations.
- Records Examination
Examining waste records can provide insight into your community's waste generation and removal patterns. You might want to examine records, such as government purchasing invoices and waste hauling invoices. Check with your local purchasing office or contact your current hauler for a history of invoices.
- Community Tour
Touring the community is a relatively quick way to assess your community's waste generating practices. It involves observing the waste activities of residents and interviewing them about their waste generation and disposal practices. This approach is probably best in small towns where observation is simple and easy.
- Waste Characterization Studies
A waste characterization study is feasible with a robust budget or with the assistance of a grant. Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs performed a Statewide Waste Characterization Study through a multi-phase approach by hiring a contracting firm. Completed in 2005, the report was used to provide an accurate snapshot of Georgia’s waste stream as a whole, as well as broken down by regions. A landfill sampling approach was used to estimate the state’s waste makeup across four seasons.
The study found the following breakdown of a solid waste stream:
Most Southeastern communities can use these numbers as a general overview of their own programs. State recycling offices can often provide insight into the specifics of a state or region. Keeping these numbers in mind, a community can then plan on the best way to divert materials from the landfill.
City of Oakland Park: A Glimpse at Improving a Recycling Program
In 2007, the City of Oakland Park, Florida, completed a preliminary recycling assessment. Due to low recycling rates, the city opted to hire a contractor to evaluate existing waste reduction practices and make recommendations on how to make the program more successful.
A few of the recommendations included:
- Enhance the bulk trash collection program to incorporate recycling. The evaluation found sufficient resources to begin collecting electronics curbside.
- Increase public education and program promotion. The city was encouraged to conduct a recycling participation study gain additional knowledge concerning why residents and businesses do or do not recycle and how to best structure the recycling message to the targeted group.
- Ensure that all commercial recycling carts are properly labeled. The study encouraged that labels should be multilingual and include pictures of the materials to be placed in the recycling cart.
- Consider dumpster service for commercial recyclables. The city was encouraged to evaluate whether sufficient businesses might warrant establishing a front-end load business recycling route.
Check out more of the City of Oakland Park Preliminary Recycling Assessment(8 pp, 113K, About PDF). These recommendations may apply to your community as well.
If none of these approaches are possible, drawing on national waste estimates may be one way to capture what materials are being disposed of in your community and their relative volumes. The U.S. EPA Municipal Solid Waste site updates their national waste figures. However, keep in mind that national estimates will not accurately reflect waste practices in many counties and smaller municipalities. If a nearby community has already completed a waste assessment, collaborating with them is a great way to make the most of your resources. Their waste stream may be a more accurate reflection of your own than a national estimate.
When in doubt, stick to recycling the basics and avoid the specialty markets.
Glass, aluminum, paper, plastic, and steel recycling are good starting points.
Instead of focusing on industry technicalities, remind residents of what can be
recycled in your community—bottles, cans, jars, jugs, paper, and cardboard.
Sometimes it helps to appeal to your community with the terms they know.
D. Evaluate Options & Set Reduction Goals
After conducting a waste assessment, use the information to list, analyze, and choose appropriate waste reduction activities for your community. Consider holding a brainstorming session to identify potential waste prevention and recycling activities. List your most promising options and evaluate them in terms of your program’s economic and operational limitations.
When analyzing and selecting specific options, focus first on waste prevention, which will enable your community or municipal facilities to eliminate waste at the source. Communities can support business waste reduction and recycling by encouraging partnership in EPA’s WasteWise. This free, voluntary program through which organizations eliminate costly municipal solid waste and select industrial wastes, benefits their bottom line, the environment, and can gain recognition for your community. WasteWise is a flexible program that allows partners to design their own waste reduction programs tailored to their needs. The baseline reporting tool allows partners to evaluate the current state of their recycling program. How much waste is disposed versus recycled? What type of products do they purchase that are made from recycled content? What waste reduction activities are currently in place? Online tools and resources are available for partners, as well as teleconferences to share lessons learned. Partners can learn how to minimize their waste stream and save money from landfill tipping fees (cost to dispose of refuse at the landfill) for each ton of waste disposed.
Next, evaluate recycling options to better manage waste that cannot be prevented. Before collecting recyclable materials, be sure to identify markets for them. See the Establish Contact with Your Markets section below. Finally, examine opportunities to buy or manufacture recycled content products. This is especially helpful when you buy locally. By purchasing products from recycled content, the demand for recycled materials increases, and thus, markets improve. Stronger markets mean stronger returns for your program.
EPA WasteWise Planning Tools
Selected Goals of WasteWise Partners (PDF) (17 pages, 108 KB About PDF))
This document lists potential waste reduction goals by operational and functional areas of an organization, such as food service or purchasing.
This link lists criteria that your organization can use to quickly screen potential waste reduction activities before conducting a detailed evaluation of promising options.
Economic and Operational Feasibility
This link will enable you to examine more closely the potential waste reduction options that passed your initial screening. It contains a list of questions to help you determine the feasibility of each option and a spreadsheet that estimates annual savings and payback period. Purchasing new bins for your local government facilities will require an upfront cost, but how quickly can you recover the costs if an outreach campaign is launched upon installation?
Find a Market for Your Recyclables
When launching or expanding a recycling program, it is important to consider markets for your materials. Additionally, when meeting with recycling companies interested in purchasing your materials, a number of key issues should be discussed.
E. Outline the Role of the Intended Recycling Coordinator
What makes up the role of a recycling coordinator? That question can be answered in different ways from one community to the next. Your state recycling office may be able to provide sample position descriptions to use as a reference. The 2007 South Carolina Recycling Professionals Certification Manual identifies many typical expectations of a recycling coordinator including:
- Overseeing collection, transportation and processing operations for collection
- Facilitating recycling and waste reduction efforts for public events
- Administering and overseeing collection contracts
- Providing administrative support for local recycling programs and projects
- Acting as liaison with the public, schools, community groups, businesses and local government agencies
- Providing technical assistance on recycling related issues
- Developing and distributing promotional and educational materials
- Directing the work of recycling center attendants, program assistants, volunteers and temporary staff
- Apply for grant funding
- Processing or marketing recovered materials
- Monitoring commodity market prices
- Reporting to elected officials on the success and needs of the program
- Developing and managing budgets.
For many communities, contracting a waste hauling service to manage their recycling collection may be the best option. How do you know if your community fits into this category? Consider the following:
- What equipment does your community own and what would need to be purchased? What is the age of existing equipment and how often are the pieces in use? What is the budget for replacing retiring equipment?
- How would a contract impact staffing? Would your program still need the same number of staff members? Could potentially displaced employees be relocated within the department?
- How much material will your community expect to collect and how easily will that material be marketed?
- Will you have adequate competition should you decide to go out to bid? How many haulers serve your area?
Should you decide that a contractor is the best way to manage your recycling program, a strong contract is the best and most efficient way of managing your hauler.
Minimum Contract Considerations
Remember your recyclables have value! A poorly written contract can break a program. At a minimum, your contract should:
- Include incentives, like revenue sharing, in your contract for the MRF and/or hauler to maximize recycling. This will encourage proper handling of recyclables, and you will be building a long-lasting partnership with a common goal, to increase recycling.
- Consider embedding education for your target audience into the contract. This way your program will have the educational funding needed regardless of future budget issues. Prepare for growth. Make sure your contract has the flexibility to add other materials, small businesses, or new apartment buildings. Consider that your program will grow.
- Carefully consider collection techniques, equipment techniques, capacity, and residue management. Curbside Value Partnership reports that wheeled carts are best for optimizing tons recycled because two-thirds of the recycling cost is in collection, one-third in processing. The automated trucks used for wheeled carts cut some of those collection costs.
- Include a measurement requirement have haulers report back to you the amounts recycled and other pertinent information. South Carolina uses Re-Trac, a software program that keeps track of their numbers.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when writing your Request for Proposals (RFP) and contract:
- Be sure you provide plenty of detail as you outline the services required. Discuss with colleagues to learn from other people’s mistakes. It is appropriate to include a glossary of terms so you can be sure everyone is on the same page.
- Make sure your contract provides enough outreach to your community. Communicating with your public only once a year is not enough! Perhaps you’d rather develop your outreach materials in house but would you like the contractor to deliver the materials in each bin? Will the contractor offer incentive programs to boost participation? What resources can they provide your drop off center attendants? Think through potential scenarios and include flexibility.
- Make sure your contract reflects current market value. What prices are materials recovery facilities (MRFs) currently paying? If haulers market materials privately, do the prices they report match national averages and regional trends published in monthly recycling publications?
- Make sure your contract has the flexibility to add other materials, small businesses, or new apartment buildings. Consider that your program will grow.
- Will you buy your bins and other equipment through the contractor or can you find a better price through a state contract? Many state recycling offices offer grants to help with developing a program. Be sure to check with yours.
- Evaluate and compare the contracts of your neighboring communities. Reach out to your state recycling office for help identifying similar communities who have developed strong contracts.
- Prepare for growth. Remember that as participation in your recycling program increases, the fixed costs of collection will begin to be offset by the value of the material. Higher participation equals more materials. More materials equal fuller trucks. Fuller trucks equal greater economic return. Ensure that your contract is flexible enough to reflect those changes.
- Who will field complaints and/or feedback from your community? If it is your hauler, how will they report back to you?
- Education is the key to a successful recycling program. Consider requiring your hauler to participate in recycling education.
- See the Evaluating Your Contract section on the Improving Your Recycling Program page for more in depth information.
Taking the time to fully develop your contract is a tough job, but one that will pay off in the end. Remember that after you have taken the time to educate yourself about the potentials of your program and the lessons learned from your neighbor, your state recycling office can often help you make your contract lock tight. The key phrase you want to integrate is Resource Management. This concept takes the focus off solid waste disposal and instead considers the whole picture. Read more about Resource Management in this Resource Recycling article or at the WasteWise Web site.
The North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance maintains a collection of request for proposals (RFPs) and contracts.
After you have done your homework, outline what you would like your contract to achieve, review examples of other communities who have done the same, and meet with potential haulers. By combining the findings from your research with the needs of your community, it is possible to develop a contract that works for you. Do not settle for a quick and easy contract that does not provide for the current and future needs of your community.
For more information on contracts and questions to ask potential haulers, check out EPA’s Questions to Ask Potential Buyers of Recyclables Web site.
Becoming market savvy will provide you with the knowledge you need to develop the strongest program possible and to make room for modifications when necessary. Here are some tips for tapping into the recycling market:
- Waste News and Recycling Today magazines both offer regular updates on material prices paid – generally by bale price.
- If your community bales and works directly with a reprocessor, the bale prices listed in the above magazines are an estimate of what you can expect to receive. Similarly, if your community works with a contractor who bales the material, this is the price that they can expect to make off the commodity. If your community sells sorted but loose material to a MRF, you can expect that price to be less by at least $0.05- $0.10/pound . If your community sends mixed, loose commingled material to a MRF, you can expect your price to be even lower or to be charged about $0.05/pound.
- Now that you understand the market prices, call a local materials recovery facility (MRF) and ask them how you can make the most from your collection. Ask them what neighboring communities send their materials there.
- Follow up with neighboring communities to see if they have any lessons learned about the local markets that they would like to share. Remember it is completely acceptable to use ideas from other programs! No need to reinvent the wheel.
- If your community does not have access to a near by MRF and will need to process directly to a reprocessor, what resources exist to help your co-op your materials with neighboring communities. Your state recycling office will have the best ideas for your region.
- Do not be afraid to call a reprocessor directly. Many buyers of commodities will work with you to help your program increase efficiency, co-op (or partner) with neighboring communities, or improve collection technique. How do you find a reprocessor? Contact one of the following commodity groups for a listing of reprocessors in your area:
- Glass: Glass Packaging Institute
- Plastic: National Association for Plastic Container Recovery or The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers
- Paper: American Forest and Paper Association or Official Board Markets
- Metals: Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries
- Stay in contact with your state recycling office and ask for any current market trend documents.
- Attend relevant conferences when able and establish a professional network for collaboration purposes. Check out some of the following organizations for information about industry meetings you may find helpful:
For more information on state-specific waste exchanges, visit EPA Region 4’s Waste Exchange site. Additional information to help you Evaluate Your Markets can be found in the Improving Your Recycling Program section.
Case Study: Athens-Clarke County Bags-to-Benches Program
In 2007, The Georgia Chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America (GASWANA) awarded Athens-Clarke County (ACC) second place for the Most Innovative Program, Design or Operation. In July 2006, the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department and Recycling Division entered into a supply agreement with the Trex Company to recycle polyethylene grocery bags and stretch film. Trex utilizes millions of plastic grocery store bags each year to create its composite lumber product, keeping this material out of landfills, locally and across the country. Trex provided the onsite storage container for the polyethylene plastic bags with the understanding that the material would be sold to them.
Kicked off in January 2007, the challenge was issued to Clarke County schools to collect plastic bags for recycling with the top producing school receiving a bench made from composite lumber provided by Trex (demonstrating the ‘closed loop’). Each school was required to keep a record of the number of bags collected on a tally sheet and submit a monthly update to the Recycling Division. Cardboard collection boxes from Trex were distributed and bags were collected from school every Friday by the ACC Recycling Division and baled at the ACC recycling facility.
As a result of outreach and media relations, 11 area schools participated and a total of 396,561 plastic bags were collected during the four-month program. The winning school collected more than 79,000 bags and was awarded a plastic bench made from composite lumber provided by Trex. ACC received $1,004.80 from the sale of the plastic bag bales and used these funds to purchase three additional composite lumber benches to provide to the second through fourth place winners as a reward for their tremendous efforts. One of the main successes of the program was the opportunity to make both students and parents more aware of the possibilities with recycling.
The Mississippi Guide to Community Recycling Programs provides some helpful guidelines to collection. They suggest, “Communities that are looking at establishing a curbside recycling program will need to provide at the very minimum an 18-gallon plastic bin for each household to collect recyclables. Communities that are looking at establishing a drop-off recycling program will need to look at some type of trailer or similar drop-off collection system. The general rule of thumb is to have one drop-off location per every 3,000 to 3,500 people. Participation is the key to any of these programs.”
Collection methods can make or break your program. Running an efficient program is essential to producing the results you desire. When developing your program, keep the following in mind:
- Maximize Space: Will you be maximizing space for collecting recyclables? If you are providing drop-off centers, do you have pick-up services planned according to the needs of the facility? If you are providing curbside services, will your trucks be running at full capacity? If there will be excess space in the transport truck, you might consider filling your routes with service to downtown businesses to make the most of the space. Consider adding other commodities to your recycling program. Since the route and manpower costs stay the same, adding a new commodity to your list of recyclables can improve your program efficiency.
- Automate Collection: If possible, consider an automated, commingled collection over a curb sort program. EPA’s collection efficiency fact sheet may be helpful in planning how to automate your program.
- Consider Larger Bins or Roll Carts: When considering curbside containers, keep in mind that many communities find that larger carts are a better option. Automated recycling collection using large recycling bins or roll carts (often in the 60-95 gallon range) helps to keep participation rates high in two ways:
- Full size containers supply enough storage space for the recyclable materials. Many families recycle until their bin is full and then the overflow ends up in the trash.
- By supplying containers that match the size of waste collection containers, communities are expressing that recycling is as important as trash collection.
- Recycle On the Go: Many communities find success when planning for away from home recycling. Recycle on the Go is an EPA initiative to encourage recycling in public places such as parks, stadiums, convention centers, airports and other transportation hubs, shopping centers, and at special events.
Case Study: 95-gallon Wheeled Carts
Nearly four years after the transition of their curbside program from 18-gallon recycling bins to 95-gallon carts, the city of Norfolk, Virginia, experienced a jump in participation from 25% in 2004 to 56% in January 2007. Nicknamed “The Big Easy,” the service features collection of recyclables in blue, 95-gallon rolling carts that resemble the City’s refuse containers. The rolling carts are collected every other week by a public service authority using new automated trucks on the same day as regular refuse collection. With the new service, additional materials such as corrugated cardboard, magazines, office paper and discarded mail are accepted. The city saved $100,000 in tipping fees (fees paid per ton to dispose solid waste) in January 2007 due to the 57% participation rate. Click here for a sample of Norfolk’s program brochure.
Case Study: City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida At Work
In 2000, the Fort Lauderdale’s Workplace Recycling Program was updated and infused with new life. This coincided with the hiring, for the first time, of a full-time Recycling Program Coordinator.
Starting with City Hall, comprehensive recycling was implemented in all administrative and operational facilities by the city government. Local businesses soon began requesting business recycling information. Initially, small businesses in the downtown area were added to the city route which improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The city provided recycling education, recycling containers and service, and the city was recipient of all material revenue. Businesses benefit economically because as their waste is diverted through recycling, disposal costs are reduced. Today, businesses can participate in workplace recycling in different ways in Fort Lauderdale. Click here to visit the City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida At Work Web site..
For more about creative collection techniques, refer to the Improving Your Recycling Program link.
Community support is another major key in developing and maintaining a successful program. Participation is the key to low contamination and high participation rates. Outreach can make or break a program!
When thinking of how to communicate with the public, it is best to break down the group in to two sections: Those that will easily recycle, and those that will need a little more support. The target audience for a beginning program should be those most likely to identify with the objectives, such as people who value environmental causes and resource conservation. As stated earlier, reaching out to environmentally conscious organizations and beautification committees is a great way to reach a friendly audience quickly and garner support.
Communicating with potential recyclers should start with the basics: where to recycle, what to recycle, how often to recycle. Keep your message positive. Partnering with local groups such as Keep America Beautiful can help to strengthen your message.
Once you have successfully targeted a more amenable audience, consider marketing initiatives for a harder-to-reach audience after the program starts. Understand that environmental messaging may not be the best approach to people who do not consider themselves avid recyclers. Guilt-based messages about the environment only appeal to people who are currently concerned about the environment. Instead, use incentives, both perceived and actual, for those who do not consider themselves avid recyclers to build the idea that recycling is part of your community’s social norm.
If you have a diverse community, don’t forget to reach out to all audiences. Consider writing instructions in more than one language if you have a melting pot of ethnicities. If you can easily identify community leaders that represent unique populations in your community, try to tap into them as a resource to disseminate information about your efforts.
Case Study: Kentucky's Crumb Rubber Grant
One great way to build support in the community is to show residents how recycling can improve the place they call home. In 2006, forty-seven grants totaling $1,503,761 were awarded by Kentucky’s Waste Tire Trust Fund to assist schools and communities in projects using crumb rubber from waste tires for athletic fields, gyms, parks and community playgrounds. Awareness of the benefits of tire recycling increased, while the community reaped the benefits through innovative upgrades at public facilities.
For further information on Kentucky's Crumb Rubber Grant, click here.
Need some help with outreach tools? Several organizations offer ideas for all media types including Public Service Announcements (PSAs), brochures, billboards, flyers, magnets, and more.
- EPA’s Resource Conservation Challenge has public service announcements (PSAs) available to download.
- North Carolina's RE3 recycling promotional materials are available for download and include designs and patterns for shirts, stickers, and posters.
- North Carolina’s RE3 recycling clip artsite has free images of recyclables such as bottles, cans, paper products and some of the products into which they can be recycled.
- Download the award-winning Recycle Guys’ Promotional Materials from South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC’s) Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling. The award winning Recycle Guys’ Posters and Fact Sheets from South Carolina DHEC’s Office of Solid Waste Reduction are available as well.
- The Curbside Value Partnership was created with two simple goals: to increase participation in residential curbside recycling programs and to measure growth to enable better decision making. Check out their marketing materials and success stories.
- Earth 911’s Recycling PSA Clearinghouse shares PSAs on a variety of environmental topics so that all local communities have the opportunity to promote environmental messages on local radio and television. Access numerous PSAs through the multimedia PSA library.
- The American Beverage Association’s Recycle It Now Web site contains resources for beverage container recycling campaigns, such as music and billboards that are available royalty-free.
- Georgia’s P2AD Sustainable Office Toolkit is a great tool for assisting business recycling.
Case Study: A Curbside Value Partnership Success Story:
"Bin There. Done That!"
Identifying how and where to reach residents with key messages is a difficult task. Indian River County, Florida, officials determined that because residents have to either pay for garbage collection, or transport their own trash to area Convenience Centers, that reaching them at these locations would yield great results. Recycling is offered at no added cost in Indian River and administrators saw that most residents were hauling their trash and recycling to the convenience centers. They could have saved themselves some trips had they just set their recycling to the curb!
City officials then began educating Convenience Center staffers about their latest education campaign called Bin There. Done That! and developed monthly fliers to be distributed to residents who visit a center. The fliers included important facts about recycling and tied into holidays and observances such as Earth Day. This campaign, coupled with overall messaging at the city level netted a 22% increase in co-mingled collections at the curb over a three-month period.
Starting a recycling program requires manpower and resources. Do not forget to include elected officials in your list of potential partners. At the highest level, passing recycling-friendly legislation often provides the necessary funds and regulatory power needed to make recycling happen. However, time spent partnering with community level officials builds support and opens the door for recycling to succeed.
When beginning your program, consider the following questions:
- Does your city and community council have a good understanding of the current state of recycling? Sure recycling is good for the environment but do your city or county officials understand its impact on energy use? If not, EPA Region 4's Municipal Government Toolkit has extensive climate and energy information that can help ensure your governmental partners understand the modern picture of recycling. The EPA WARM model can further evaluate your community’s energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) savings.
- Do they know that regional markets are strong and that recycling has a strong impact in the local and regional economy (11 pp, 524K, About PDF)? EPA’s Jobs through Recycling site reports that for every job collecting recyclables, there are 26 jobs in processing the materials and manufacturing them into new products. The Southeast has a strong focus on manufacturing and recycling supports local jobs. Remember that recycling adds up to tax revenue. EPA Region 4's Municipal Government Toolkit can help you teach your elected officials about the economic side of the picture.
- Do your leaders know of recycling businesses located within or near your community that benefit from your recycling program? Partnering with a reprocessor or an end user/manufacturer in your area can help capture the ear of an elected official.
- Your elected officials might be interested to learn that recycling helps improve your public’s perception of their community. For more information on the social impact of recycling, see EPA Region 4’s Community Development and Recycling link. This resource is part of the EPA Region 4 Municipal Government Toolkit.
Do not forget that your state recycling office can be a strong partner in communicating with your elected officials.
A Tool for Deriving Community Specific Savings
The Recy-culator tool allows you to input data from your community regarding tons recycled in order to find out approximately how much money your community saved, how much landfill space was saved, as well as tree, gas, and energy savings. If you have not started recycling, you can use the tool as a handy guide to set community recycling goals.
Remember, recycling is a growing industry with strong potential. Your council members are interested in growing businesses that result in more tax revenue and jobs. Conveying the value of recycling to elected officials is not always easy. Many officials are not aware of the powerful dynamics of the recycling industry. By arming yourself with the facts, you are one step closer to getting the support you need to make recycling a reality. Below are some quick facts and figures to help you make a case for recycling in your community.
EPA Region 4 also offers three fact sheets, The Economics of Recycling in the Southeast: Understanding the Whole Picture (PDF) (11 pp, 524K, About PDF), Source Reduction and Recycling: A Role in Preventing Global Climate Change (PDF) (8 pp, 564K, About PDF), and Recycling: A Component of Strong Community Development (6 pp, 65.2K, About PDF), which focus on the Southeast and can help you fit your community’s program into the larger picture.
Quick Facts & Figures to Support Recycling Programs
Numbers from EPA’s Recycling Economic Information (REI) study show that the United States is home to more than 56,000 recycling and reuse establishments that generate an annual payroll of nearly $37 billion.
The same study also indicates that beyond the 1.1 million people directly employed by recycling in 2001, there are an additional 1.4 million jobs with a $52 billion payroll in businesses that support the recycling and reuse industry.
According to North Carolina’s Recycling Means Business, the more than 500 recycling businesses in the state employ more people than either the state’s bio-tech industry or the state’s agricultural livestock industry. In addition, recycling jobs as a percentage of the state’s total employment have increased 40 percent in 10 years.
According to the Curbside Value Partnership, an estimated $1.2 billion worth of recyclable materials were disposed of in Region 4 states in 2006.
According to Georgia’s Statewide Waste Characterization Study completed in 2006, Georgia estimates that each year it spends $100 million to throw away $300 million worth of recyclables.
In 2005, the South Carolina Department of Commerce released The Economic Impact of the Recycling Industry in South Carolina ,which determined that the state’s recycling jobs pay above the state average. With an estimated 12 percent growth over the next five years, the number of good recycling jobs in South Carolina is expected to grow.
Kentucky lost an estimated $17.7 million worth of aluminum cans due to disposal instead of recycling according to Kentucky's 2003 Statewide Solid Waste Management Report.
Curious about how recycling legislation can work to make a difference in your community? Here is a sample of recent legislation in the Southeast that is expected to increase recycling rates or overcome hurdles to more efficient recycling programs.
Recent Legislation in the Southeast
Kentucky House Bill 172, 2002: Kentucky instituted a fee of $1.75 per ton of solid waste sent to the landfill, which goes into the Kentucky Pride Fund. The fund helps finance the cleanup of illegal open dumps and abandoned landfills. In addition, the bill establishes that waste reduction, recycling, education, and proper disposal of waste are state priorities.
Grant Funding: Governor Ernie Fletcher announced in June 2007 that 26 recycling programs would receive a total of $2.3 million in grants from the Kentucky Pride Fund to finance their efforts. The fund was expanded in 2006 by the General Assembly to include recycling. In June 2008, Governor Steve Beshear announced that 34 recycling and household hazardous waste grants totaling $1.5 million were awarded to expand recycling in Kentucky and reduce the amount of solid waste going into landfills.
Mississippi House Bill 896: In 2006, this legislation expanded efforts to create the State Task Force on Recycling by requesting the assistance of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) in reporting regularly on the recycling industry and pertinent recyclable markets in Mississippi. The bill also requires the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to make recycling a priority when rewarding solid waste assistance grants, to provide technical assistance programs for businesses that will recycle, and to develop reports on the overall status of recycling in the State.
North Carolina (Solid Waste Management Act of 2007) Senate Bill 1492 and Senate Bill 6 A landfill moratorium was enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly requiring a solid waste management study focused on site location, design, and operational requirements for certain landfills. Recommendations were incorporated from the study and developed into the Solid Waste Management Act (SWMA) of 2007, which contains requirements for new landfills to conduct an environmental impact study and meet additional landfill standards for environmental protection.
As part of Senate Bill 1492, state legislators included measures that allowed a tax on garbage, required a fee for solid waste permits along with an annual fee to hold a permit, developed more stringent buffer requirements for landfills type C and D, and created stricter criteria for solid waste permit applicants addressing their environmental and financial qualifications. In addition, the bill strengthened regulatory authority and insurance requirements for permit holders. The new buffer requirements canceled some proposed landfills. In addition, an electronics recycling program was passed which requires computer recycling.
North Carolina (Solid Waste Management Act of 2007) Senate Bill 1492 and Senate Bill 6 Effective January 2008, the state of North Carolina will ban the disposal of beverage containers by certain permit holders. Due to high demand for products made from recycled beverage containers and ready markets both in the state and nearby, certain restaurant and bar establishments must ensure that valuable containers are not discarded. The ban will benefit glass, aluminum, and plastic suppliers. Not only will energy be saved by avoiding the extraction of raw materials for production, but the reduction of valuable commodities from the waste stream will prevent the release of GHG into the atmosphere.
North Carolina House Bill 1518: In order to promote better business and improve electronics recycling in the state, North Carolina is requiring manufacturers of electronics to apply to sell electronics in the state. By making producers pay on the front end, the state is hoping to encourage producers to make more attractive products that are easier to recycle and better for the environment.
While these examples relate to state-wide recycling regulations, do not forget the importance of local ordinances that are catered to the needs and desires of your community. For example, Athens-Clarke county in Georgia utilizes a pay-as-you-throw program for downtown businesses and residents. Businesses must pay for the frequency of trash pick-up service, as well as $1 for each county issued trash bag, while recycling bags are free. By requiring the use of the county’s trash bags for pick-up, recycling is a more affordable and attractive solution for business owners. As an added step, all bags are clear and labeled as either “TRASH” or “RECYCLE.” Thus, enforcement is possible and opportunities to educate non-recycling businesses about recycling are feasible.
For a sample of Local Government Solid Waste Management Ordinances, see North Carolina Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance’s Local Government Assistance Page.