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Improving Your Recycling Program

Recycling Grows Green Logo

Are you all out of ideas on how to improve your recycling program? Do you know the econmonic gains, energy savings, and greenhouse gas GHG reductions associated with recycling, but need help making it happen? Running a community recycling program is more involved than putting out bins and waiting for material to come. It's more important for program managers to ensure that they regularly evaluate operations, making the program run as efficiently as possible. Below are eight different programmatick approaches that should be evaluated for prime program potential.

Click on the links below to explore eight key considerations for improving your existing program:

1. Reinforce Communication & Outreach

2. Evaluate Your Markets

3. Evaluate Your Contract

4. Modify Your Collection Techniques

5. Target Your Non-recyclers

6. Communicate with Elected Officials

7. Support Recycling Legislation

8. Maintain Creativity

Case Study: Town of Clayton, North Carolina, Sees Recycling Surge

Clayton residents more than tripled the amount of waste they recycle thanks to an expanded collection program the town implemented at the beginning of 2008. The waste contractor is hauling an average of 11 pounds of recyclables a week per home - more than two and half-times the amount per home in 2007.  The revised recycling program included the replacement of 18-gallon bins with 64-gallon rollcarts, which are easier for residents to use.

Several more items were also added to collection, including magazines, catalogs, phone books, cereal boxes, junk mail, office waste paper, and plastic bottles and jugs numbered 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. The waste collector also accepts corrugated boxes if they are cut down for easy transport. Expansion of the Town's recycling program, coupled with the collaboration of the City Council and waste collector, has set the stage for a highly successful recycling program.

Source: The Clayton News-Star, Clayton Sees Recycling Surge

1. Reinforce Communication and Outreach

This sounds like a simple start, but regular communication with the public helps reduce contamination and increase participation. Those two factors immediately lead to a more cost effective collection program. As North Carolina's RE3.orgExit EPA Disclaimer REACT training manual points out, participation is one tool a community can use to decrease cost per ton.

When conducting recycling outreach, it is important to think of the public in two different groups – those who recycle, and those who don't. When communicating with current recyclers, focus on telling them where, when and what to recycle. It is less promotion and more instruction. Appealing to non-recyclers takes a little more creativity.  With either group, your best bet is to avoid heavy handed environmental messages and guilt-based approaches. Instead focus on appealing to their positive gain. More on connecting to non-recyclers can be found below.

When the public perceives that their community's recycling program is active and well supported, a greater number of people will want to participate at a higher rate. By helping to establish social norms and conveying to a resident that it's easy to recycle and that many people do it often, a recycling program will benefit from the resulting form of mild community peer pressure. Understanding that the public feels a need to fit in and showing the positive gains from participating in a program is the best way to promote your program.

It is important to make sure that recycling outreach messages are properly crafted and focused. Research conducted by the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental AssistanceExit EPA Disclaimer, as well as other groups like the American Beverage AssociationExit EPA Disclaimer, shows that the environmental guilt messages traditionally used by many recycling programs are increasingly ineffective. Instead, messages should focus on the positive gains made through recycling. It is critical to make sure your program is as accessible to the public as possible.

How can you achieve that? Here are some low-cost ideas:

Looking for free recycling materials to use to help your public recycle? No need to reinvent the wheel.

Case Study: Assessing Participation Impacts

Want to see the direct impact of increased participation in your program?

The following statistics were derived from RE3.orgExit EPA Disclaimer (13 pp, 1046K, About PDF). The table presents hypothetical data from the Town of Harrison. Use the table to explore the answers to the scenarios presented below.

Town of Harrison



Participating Households


Participation Rate


Collection Method

Curbside or Drop-off

Price Paid For Recyclable Materials

$25 Per Ton

Solid Waste Tip Fee

$30 Per Ton

Average Collection Per Participant

375 lbs/Household

Total Recycling

618.75 Tons

Would it be better to try to get 10 percent more for recyclable materials or increase the number of participants by 10 percent? (Assume that changes in recycling and solid waste collection costs will, for the most part, offset each other.)

If a town receives 10 percent more for recyclable materials, the new revenue from materials will be $27.50 per ton. The existing revenue of $15,468.75 would then increase to $17,015.63 with a total improvement of $1,546.88.

But if the town got 10 percent more participants for a new participation total of 3,630 households (60.5 percent), what would the effect be?

As we see above, before the increase, the Town of Harrison managed 618.75 tons at $25 per ton for a total revenue of $15,468.75.  The new participation rate would take them to 3630 households recycling 375 lbs for a grand total of 680.63 tons (or 61.88 new tons).  That 680.63 tons at $25 recycling revenue rate would equal $17,015.75 or an increase of $1,547 in revenue. In addition, the town would save $1,856.40 in avoided disposal costs. Greater participation has a two-fold impact – more recycling revenue and less disposal costs.

In short, increasing participation is more effective than securing a stronger market value. The net improvement over the old program is $3,403.37, or about $1,856 more than if the price paid for the materials alone went up.

See the full example and others at RE3.orgExit EPA Disclaimer (13 pp, 1046K, About PDF).

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2. Evaluate your markets

While increasing participation may be the most effective way to boost the economic impact of your recycling program, it is still important to see what kind of marketing pricing your materials are getting. Evaluating your markets is often as simple as taking the time to stay current on market trends and taking a good hard look at your operations. What is the easiest way to do that? Working through these steps can ensure that you are as market savvy as they come:

For more information on state-specific waste exchanges, visit EPA Region 4’s Waste Exchange site.

If you’re serious about evaluating your markets, then you have to be ready to know the ins and outs of your program.  How do your crews handle the equipment and bins?  How clean is your equipment?  What contaminants are ending up in your collection?  Are your drop-off attendants supportive of recycling?  Be prepared to participate in the business economy side of recycling. 

What’s in your bin? In order to evaluate your market potential, it is important to have an idea of what’s in your waste stream. If your budget is not robust enough to conduct a formal audit, compare your totals to Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs’ Statewide Waste Characterization StudyExit EPA Disclaimer. Completed in 2005, the report provides an accurate snapshot of Georgia’s waste stream as a whole, as well as broken down by regions.

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.

Remember that in the Southeast, demand for recyclables outweighs supply. That means that you should continue to expect strong markets. For example, the demand for aluminum food packaging is shrinking because of an increased use of plastics in soda bottles and other beverage packaging applications. Information like this may be discouraging to some communities that fear the profitability of future aluminum markets will decrease. However, awareness of market trends will also show that the increased demand for fuel-efficient, lightweight cars is expected to make aluminum more popular in automobile manufacturing. According to a study conducted by the North Carolina DENR, aluminum is a desirable material in the transportation industry because of its relative strength and lightweight properties. The average aluminum content per passenger car increased from 191 pounds in 1991 to 252 pounds in 1996, according to the North Carolina DENR. If the use of aluminum in automobiles continues to grow, then the prosperity of the transportation industry might determine the demand for aluminum.

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3. Evaluate your contract

Managing a hauler contract can be hard work.  But it’s a job that needs to be done.  When was the last time you evaluated your hauler contract?  Here are some considerations that can get you started:

Even in small cities, the returns from an efficient recycling program can have quite an impact. For example, in 2006-2007, the City of Oxford, Mississippi made $72,551 off their recyclables and saved $21,030 in tipping fees for a combined total of $93,581 to help offset their 2006-2007 budget of $137,442. Another consideration when it comes to market value is to auction materials off to the highest bidder. Recyclables are valuable commodities with local, national, and international demand. By auctioning off materials, the highest bidder wins, which can be an even greater win for the community.

Minimum Contract Considerations

Remember your recyclables have value! A poorly written contract can break a program. At a minimum, your contract should:

Flexibility. Markets for recycled materials are strong in the Southeast. Paper, plastic, cardboard, and metals fetch strong prices in most Region 4 states. Instead of sticking to only traditional materials, such as newspaper, bottles, and aluminum cans, for your curbside or drop-off collection, examine local and state, regional, and even international markets for materials. Do you have a polystyrene end user nearby or an oil filter recycler? Consider incorporating a wider range of plastics into curbside collection and other materials that sometimes get excluded, such as corrugated cardboard. Your recycling program is unique to your community and recycling markets fluctuate. Ensuring that your hauler contract makes room for modifications to collection will keep your program up-to-date and poised for growth.

Incentives. You may have heard about incentives for increased participation in recycling, but what about incentives for your hauler? Once you sign a contract, what motivates the hauler to not only pick up recycling, but to encourage greater recovery? Incentivized contracts, such as one developed by Decatur, Georgia, put pressure on the hauler to return high volumes of material. Instead of paying haulers a fixed fee for each house serviced or a city-wide set fee, Decatur actually implemented a fee paid for each tonnage recovered. This tactic motivates the hauler to provide efficient services with more impact on the bottom line.

Rigid contracts can represent barriers for change. Recycling is an ever changing and dynamic industry, which necessitates adaptability and thus a creative approach to contract agreements. Remember to think outside the box and consider all the opportunities you have to collaborate and utilize your hauler for the utmost efficiency.

One way to change the way you think about solid waste management is to consider the phrase Resource Management . The concept of resource management takes the focus off solid waste disposal and instead considers the whole picture with recycling a strong part of the management process.  Read more about the concept of resource management in this Resource Recycling article or at the WasteWise Website.

Learn from your neighbors. One way to begin the process of evaluating your contract is to compare your services and contract benefits to neighboring municipalities, particularly ones with highly successful programs. If you are in an area with little recycling activity, seek out a mentoring community coordinator by contacting someone in your state recycling office. Your state recycling office may be able to direct you to other communities your size who have successfully re-evaluated their contract.  In addition, North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental AssistanceExit EPA Disclaimer, as well as the Georgia Department of Community AffairsExit EPA Disclaimer maintains a collection of request for proposals (RFPs) and contracts.

After you’ve done your homework, outline what you’d like your contract to achieve, review examples of other communities who have done the same, and call up your hauler for a meeting. 

4. Modify your collection techniques

It is easy to get caught up in the day to day demands of collection. But a strong program must take time to evaluate current operations and plan for the future. Strategic planning starts with asking yourself some hard questions.

Curbside Collection: These questions apply to programs who collect curbside:

Case Study: 95-gallon Wheeled Carts

In November 2006, the city of Kinston, North Carolina revamped its recycling program. After brainstorming about how to improve their program, one change they made was giving residents 95-gallon wheeled carts. Also, instead of workers collecting the recycled materials once a week, they switched to once a month. The covered bins offer plenty of space and protection for recyclables as well. Once a month collection requires less fuel and automated collection makes it possible to reuse the same trucks used for waste pick-up. Also, according to Rhonda Barwick with the Kinston Department of Public Services, residents are more likely to participate since the carts are easier for the elderly to wheel to the street and offer a cover to keep rain and pests out. Kinston says they have realized $60,000 in fuel savings and the need for fewer collection personnel.

Drop-Off Centers: These questions may apply to programs who collect recyclables at drop off centers:

Event Recycling: Ideas for success when planning for away from home recycling:

Collection Co-op: Ideas for working with your neighbors to pool materials:

Case Study: Georgia’s Regional Recycling Transfer Hubs – Improving the Economies of Scale

Many rural communities do not generate large enough volumes of recyclables to effectively market their materials. To avoid the high transport and separation costs being imposed on the smaller, low-volume rural programs in Georgia, a novel concept of regional hubs was initiated. A Regional Recycling Collection Hub is a facility that accepts truckload quantities of recyclables from several surrounding communities and transfers them (serves as a transfer station) to long-haul transport vehicles bound for the materials recovery facility (MRF).

Four communities; the City of Griffin, the City of Savannah, the County of Bulloch, and the County of Lowndes, won a total of $2.2 million in state grants from the state’s Solid Waste Trust Fund (SWTF) to implement innovative regional recycling collection programs. The four facilities will serve as regional collection hubs (or transfer points) for commingled recyclables throughout the state, from which material will be picked up and transported to larger, more efficient MRFs. The State’s recycling initiative is designed to promote the development of single stream collection centers within 50 miles of every community in Georgia.

These collection hubs and regional processing centers will lower transportation costs for Georgia recycling markets, enabling a greater share of Georgia’s recyclables to be marketed in-state. The planned recycling hubs are also slated to have a significant statewide impact in other ways, including the expansion of single stream collection beyond metro-Atlanta and a continued focus on the re-use of recycled items by Georgia industries.

The four hubs have projected an average of 185% increase in recovered materials in their communities, which calculates to a projected $514,500 savings in avoided landfill tip fees at the current statewide average tip fee of $35 per ton. The increase in recovered materials will also benefit the hub communities and many of Georgia’s strong recycling markets, with projected annual revenues of $370,000. The estimated return on investment of SWTF expenditures is less than three (3) years for this project.

Under this program, the applicants have estimated that almost $5 million will be matched by local partners, mainly the private sector, and an additional $3 million will be supported by local government match. The public-private partnerships between communities and private- sector recycling markets provide a balanced approach to the recycling hub concept. The concept was so popular that Macon Iron and SP Recycling Corp. partnered to create a fifth recycling hub in Middle Georgia, referred to as the Macon Iron/Middle Georgia hub. A hub map (1pp, 173K, About PDF) is available showing the regional hub zones.

Collection Creativity: Every program should maintain collection creativity. Whether you collect curbside or with drop-off centers, collecting recyclables is the most expensive aspect of a recycling program. Labor, fuel, and equipment costs add up quickly. Designing efficient routes and filling routes in with businesses and retail centers aid in lowering fuel What about labor? Instead of hiring a commercial contractor to manage their recycling collection and sorting efforts, Marion County, Kentucky, a sparsely populated, rural area, makes use of their prison inmates as part of a prison work program. The inmates assist with collection routes and sort recyclables. Marion County is also partnering with nearby Washington County, Kentucky, to share resources in a regional approach to increasing recovery of recyclable materials.

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5. Target your non-recyclers

Now that you have evaluated your markets and contracts, touched base with your current recyclers, and beefed up your collection and routes, it’s time to look for the communities who just aren’t recycling.  Sometimes targeting or focusing a recycling message can result in more collection impact than speaking to the whole community all of the time.

This idea may seem simple, but it’s one that is often overlooked. Why should you make it a priority? When you increase participation in your program, your trucks come back fuller. That means your program is operating more cost efficiently.   When your public understands that recycling is part of the community and how they can be involved, not only do your collection rates go up but your contamination rates go down.  Wondering who isn’t recycling?  Talk to your drivers.  They’ll know where the empty bins are. 

When speaking to non-recyclers, it’s often better to appeal to their sense of positive gain more than address what they’re missing by not recycling. How can you achieve this? Here is a list of ways you can help make recycling the social norm:

Are multi-family dwellings your sore spot? How are you addressing space restrictions, and contamination issues?  Use EPA's multi-family recycling study and guidelines published in 2001. North Carolina's Pollution Prevention Pays Program also has a robust resource for recycling at multi-family residencesExit EPA Disclaimer.

Case Study: Reaching All Audiences

(From Curbside Value Partnership)

Hispanic Recycling Campaign

In 2004, The City of Charlotte Solid Waste Services launched “Meta Un Gool Reciclando” (Score a Goal Recycling) – a three-month grassroots public relations recycling campaign aimed at increasing recycling in Charlotte’s Hispanic/Latino community, which has low recycling rates. City officials partnered with Latin American groups to gather feedback about the best ways to communicate with the Hispanic population. The feedback indicated that the topics most important to the Hispanic community include family, healthcare, faith and religion.

The initial pilot outreach campaign in 2004 resulted in a 12 percent increase in recycling rates in just three months. City officials looked at ways to incorporate what they learned to launch a new, city-wide campaign during the 2007 fiscal year.  The new campaign retains the same name, but now targets the city’s entire Hispanic population.  The campaign continues to partner with third parties and, based on the 2004 findings, focuses on recycling messaging and themes that came up as a top priority to the Hispanic community, including a clean environment, clean space for gathering and meeting, sanitation, and healthcare.  The new campaign also addresses language and cultural barriers and looks for ways to make it easier for residents in multi-family homes to recycle. For more information, visit City of Charlotte Solid Waste ServicesExit EPA Disclaimer.

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6. Communicate with elected officials

Disposal Fees Fund Recycling and Allow Cities to Receive Rebates for Tons Recycled Broward County, Fl

Recyclables collected by Broward County, Florida residents are processed at a materials recovery facility (MRF) located in Davie, FL. The MRF is a 40,000-square-foot center that processes more than 450 tons of Broward County’s recyclables per day.

The material recovery facility’s operational costs are covered through a surcharge on the disposal fee at the county's Waste-to-Energy plants, state grants, and other funds. Revenues raised from the sale of the materials are returned to participating cities based on the tonnage they deliver. This cooperative agreement gives Broward residents a great opportunity to recycle in a cost-effective way.

Building support from elected officials is crucial to developing the upper-level program support needed for your recycling program to flourish. When looking to improve your program, consider the following questions:

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.   

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 BusinessExit EPA Disclaimer, 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 PartnershipExit EPA Disclaimer, 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 StudyExit EPA Disclaimer 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 CarolinaExit EPA Disclaimer, 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 ReportExit EPA Disclaimer.

Looking for something more concise than the full toolkit?  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) and 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.

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7. Support recycling legislation

Recycling legislation can go a long way in providing incentives for recycling and disincentives for landfilling. Legislatures are getting creative with recycling bills, such as advanced disposal fees, electronics initiatives, landfill bans, and even recycling legislation that partners along Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) permitting lines?  By supporting smart disposal and waste reduction on a state-wide level, state and local elected officials have the opportunity to support municipal programs with guidance and funding.  This sort of approach opens up municipal recycling programs to be more efficient and have a greater economic and environmental impact on the local region and the Southeast. 

One unique piece of recycling legislation can be found in North Carolina’s Senate Bill 1492Exit EPA Disclaimer, which mandates that 8,000 ABC permit holders now must ensure that their recyclable beverage containers are separated, stored, and recycled.  The ABC Commission and Department of Environment and Natural Resources have been charged and funded to develop a recycling guide and assistance program that permit holders can utilize and have been available to help bars and restaurants make the switch. Approximately 50,000 additional tons of recycled glass is expected per year. This creation of a steady, dependable stream of recycled glass and other recyclable containers will have an economic impact in North Carolina, perhaps even leading to the relocation of material reprocessors.

Recent Legislation in the Southeast

Kentucky House Bill 172, 2002:Exit EPA Disclaimer 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 grantsExit EPA Disclaimer 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 millionExit EPA Disclaimer were awarded to expand recycling in Kentucky and reduce the amount of solid waste going into landfills.

Mississippi House Bill 896:Exit EPA Disclaimer 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 6Exit EPA Disclaimer 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 6Exit EPA Disclaimer 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:Exit EPA Disclaimer 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.

Tennessee Modifications to Legislature (2007 Highlights): Exit EPA Disclaimer

While the legislation examples above relate to state-wide recycling regulations, don’t forget the importance of local ordinances that are catered to the needs and desires of your community. For example, Athens-Clarke countyExit EPA Disclaimer in Georgia utilizes a pay-as-you-throw program for downtown businesses and residents. Businesses must pay for their requested 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 is feasible.

For a sample of Local Government Solid Waste Management Ordinances, see North Carolina Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance’s Local Government Assistance PageExit EPA Disclaimer.

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8. Maintain creativity

Recycling is a fluid industry. A nimble program can most easily react to market changes and continue to serve their public efficiently. Here are some ways your program can grow and change:

Hire Part-Time Help. Don’t feel like you have time to read up on the current collection trends, markets, grants and recycling options?  Wish you could conduct an audit or evaluate easy additions to your route?  Longing for a new website or Spanish-speaking outreach specialist?  Maybe it’s time to hire a college student for a summer internship.  Remember, summer interns are a great way to harvest the creative power of tomorrow’s marketing professionals, website designers, business plan writers, or environmental educators, and it’s no harder to hire an intern than it is any other part-time employee.  Advertise at local colleges or use your networking techniques to look for students who might be home for the summer.

Grants, grants, and more grants.  Many state recycling offices offer yearly grant rounds, or you may consider EPA’s funding by visiting http://www.grants.gov/Exit EPA Disclaimer. Recent grantees from EPA Region 4 include:

Let WasteWise help you help your business. 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.

Have you considered implementing a Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) Program? In traditional solid waste programs, residents pay for waste collection through property taxes or a fixed fee, regardless of how much—or how little—trash they generate. In communities with Pay-As-You-Throw programs (PAYT), residents are charged for the collection of municipal solid waste—ordinary household trash—based on the amount they actually throw away, after reduction and recycling efforts. This creates a direct economic incentive to recycle more and to generate less waste. Most communities with PAYT charge residents a fee for each bag or can of waste they generate. In a small number of communities, residents are billed based on the weight of their trash. Either way, these programs are direct: reduced disposal results in reduced cost for the individual. Research indicates that PAYT can be a very cost-effective tool to increase recycling and waste diversion. The program of “paying as you go” shows national increases in recycling rates of 32-59%. For example, a survey in Iowa found that recycling increased an average of 50% after PAYT was implemented. Other benefits are that the program is flexible, quick to implement, and works well in communities of all sizes. According to the EPA and Skumatz Economic Research Associates (SERA) report Pay as you Throw (PAYT) in the US: 2006 Update and AnalysisExit EPA Disclaimer, PAYT programs in the US have grown from about 100 in the late 1980s to over 7,000 in 2007, representing about 25% of US communities. Collectively, these program are annually keeping 4.6-8.3 million of tons of MSW out of the landfill, and saving 61-109 million MBTU.

Don’t let your recycling program become stagnant. Even if you are running out of ideas or funding to improve your program, capitalize on the talents and ideas of others in your organization or your community. Reach out to other recycling communities whose programs you admire and find out how they achieved success. Lastly, don’t forget to harness the power of community beautification committees and non-profit organizations. The City of Griffin Solid Waste DepartmentExit EPA Disclaimer in Georgia worked with Keep Griffin Spalding BeautifulExit EPA Disclaimer to gain support for a cleaner community through recycling. Now, with the only mandatory recycling curbside program in Georgia, they are well on their way to higher community participation in recycling!

Case Study: Downtown Athens, Georgia & Pay-As-You-Throw

Creative Solutions for a More Efficient Recycling Program

Problem: Downtown Athens has too little space for trash and recycling receptacles and few alleyways. As a large college town, the late night bar and restaurant scene requires night-time collection to keep the streets clean. Much of the trash collected consists of recyclable materials, such as beverage bottles and cans.

Solution: The Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste DepartmentExit EPA Disclaimer decided to implement a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) program which requires customers to purchase clear county issued bags for their trash and to pay for trash collection based on the frequency of collection needed. Due to the space limitations downtown, the commercial business sector turned to an all bag collection program. The cost for the county-required, clear “trash” bags is currently $1 per bag, while recycling bags are free of charge. This setup makes recycling a more attractive and affordable option for downtown businesses when compared to disposing of waste. The use of clear bags also makes it easy to pinpoint which businesses could benefit from outreach about the benefits of recycling.

In addition to the PAYT program, a night shift supervisor was hired in the county’s fiscal year 2007 to communicate with bars and restaurants in the PAYT program and to run the program more efficiently. Since the introduction of a night shift supervisor, the percentage of tons recycled by the downtown businesses has improved 96%.

For more about ACC's PAYT program, check out this Recycling Today ArticleExit EPA Disclaimer from 2004.

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