From incentives to tracking, there are many strategies for increasing curbside recycling.
Communities in the United States have used a variety of methods to increase curbside recycling rates. From incentive programs that reward recycling participation, to tracking containers with RFID and pay-as-you-throw programs, communities are seeing their efforts pay off.
During the Tennessee Symposium, hosted by the Southeast Recycling Development Council (SERDC) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), several major players in this field shared the results of these various programs.
Lauren Steele, vice president, government affairs for Cola-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated (CCBCC), Charlotte, N.C., talked about his company’s Coca-Cola Recycle & Win program in which residents are mailed a sticker to place on their recycling bin. If the sticker is placed properly on the bin and spotted by Recycle & Win Patrol, that resident wins a gift card to an area retailer.
“When you encourage them with a gift card and position enforcement, it works,” said Steele.
CCBCC has programs in several North Carolina communities, including Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, Kannapolis, Harrisburg, Concord, and Greenville.
Tony Romano, vice president of business development for Sonrai Systems, an information technology company with a focus on retail backroom and building automation headquartered in Hanover Park, Ill., showed how accurate recycling data can be collected on carts with RFID tags. Collecting data from recycling carts can help cities identify areas within the community that are not recycling, he explained. Recycling can then be promoted to the areas of the community that have low recycling participation.
Romano also showed how census data can be overlaid on performance data from the RFID system to show the correlation between demographics such as income and recycling.
Les Evans, vice president, municipal partnerships for WasteZero, Raleigh, N.C., which has been implementing waste reduction programs for more than 20 years, discussed the pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) option that his company helps implement for municipalities.
He called garbage disposal, “the last unmetered utility,” adding, “Unmetered garbage is giving away a blank check to throw away whatever you want.”
With the WasteZero program, the more you recycle, the less you pay, he explained.
Finally, Matt Todd, senior consultant, Resource Recycling Systems, Ann Arbor, Mich., discussed the findings of a report his firm developed with assistance from SERDC and TDEC titled Characterization of Tennessee’s Recycling Economy, which provides insights into Tennessee’s current recycling economy, material flow and potential opportunities that could increase local government collection of key recyclable materials.
He told attendees that $180 million worth of recyclables are thrown away in Tennessee each year.
He discussed the state’s strategy around “hub and spoke,” which has identified the five population centers of Tennessee as the hubs with transfer stations within a 50-mile radius of the population centers serving as the spokes. The goal of this approach is to capture recyclables from rural areas and bring them to material recovery facilities in larger communities for processing.
It is a model that Todd said could serve as a model for other states.
Kristin Smith, a managing editor with the Recycling Today Media Group, moderated the session and fielded questions from the audience, many of which wanted to know if a combination of incentives and PAYT could further improve recycling rates. Steele and Evans agreed that it would.