Methods to Increase Participation in Recycling
Question: What effective practices and policies are there at the municipal level to increase participation in recycling?
One of the the most well-recognized recycling policies to increase to increase participation and diminish refuse generation is pay-as-you-throw systems. Those have been proven out over and over again throughout North America to be very effective, very quickly. Because, it is immediately apparent to the homeowner that it’s in their interest to recycle as much as possible and reduce what they’re putting out at the curb, either through recycling or if they choose to through reduced consumption. So, that’s a very clear winner. Another very clear winner are bottle bills. They have very high rates of redemption and recovery especially when you bump the deposit up to 10 cents instead of 5 cents. So those are two really well proven policies I would think for which there’s lots and lots of evidence.
When you spoke before about and the different frameworks that cities might use and their different goals in having a curbside recycling program, how would those two things fit in with some of those frameworks? So, if the city were to adopt those kinds of strategies what framework would they be operating inside of?
Well, there certainly would be an – I mean – Brian, correct me up if I’m wrong – but I would think that that type of framework will certainly lead to the economies of scale that you need for a recycling system to be strong and viable right. You need the more material that you’re collecting on a consistent basis, the more robust your whole program economics will be. So, we definitely fit in with a paradigm in which the economics of the recycling program, hopefully in the long term, in longer-term, the economics of the residual disposal program would be optimized
Samantha makes some good points about the pay-as-you-throw, the financial incentives and I think those are clearly good ways to go about it and somehow you need to find a way whether it’s a volume (based) system or weight (based) system that directly goes to the homeowner, that they can see that and realize that those are very good systems. One of my concerns with the deposit systems which have been very effective where they work those places that don’t have those seem to have very strong opposition and I think we can burn a lot of effort to make that happen in it. It may not be a low-hanging fruit even though it’s effective when it does happen and municipalities have a lot less power to be effective. In those, I love the idea and the concept. I think it may be very difficult (sometimes).
Some of the things I’m aware of is when you go to a larger bin for your recyclables such as a wheeled cart versus the small sit-on-the-ground bin, that increases recycling rates. Maybe it’s just the ease of it, or the large capacity of it. Those increase rates. If you are able to link your recycling day with garbage day that’s helpful. If you have recycling collection every other week, but garbage collection every week there’s some confusion there: When is recycling day?! Matching those up can really help recycling rates as well. It may increase in cost but it does improve those rates.
Mandated recycling – making recycling mandatory does work. There’s usually – depending on the culture in your municipality or location – there could be a lot of resistance to it but nonetheless I think it’s pretty effective when there is a mandatory program or a mandated law in place.
Author, Recycling Reconsidered: the Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action
International Vice President, Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA)