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How to design a residential recycling program

Operation of a recycling program has come to be viewed as an environmental responsibility of local governments.  The challenge is to enact recycling policies that encourage greater participation.  A recycling program is a system made up of interdependent components.  When developing a program, the effect of each component on the system as a whole should be considered.  Policy makers should pay particular attention to the culture in which they operate, taking into account the level of environmental concern in the community, affluence of the population and attitudes towards recycling. 

Successful recycling programs will incorporate the following:

  • Convenient recycling options which allow for a wide variety of materials to be recycled.

The more materials a recycling program accepts, the greater the participation rate, particularly if those items are costly to dispose of by other means.

  • Curbside recycling.

Pickup should be frequent enough that residents don’t have to store large quantities of material until their pickup day.

  • Single or dual stream collection systems.

These systems limit the amount of sorting that must be performed by the resident.  Convenience is critical in stimulating recycling participation.

  • Provision of recycling containers to the household.

The need to provide their own recycling containers is just one more impediment to participation for the resident.

  • Special recycling events where residents can dispose of hard-to-recycle items. 

Electronics, household batteries, books, clothing, shoes and even prescription medications can all be recycled, but are difficult to incorporate into regular curbside collection programs.

  • Programs for multi-family dwellings and the business community. 

MFDs are often eliminated from recycling programs due to logistical concerns, but they constitute a large portion of the solid waste stream.  Businesses produce huge volumes of paper and cardboard, as well as other recyclables, and most do not have convenient recycling options. 

  • Education and outreach.

An emphasis on community outreach and public involvement is critical.  Policy makers are wise to form citizen advisory councils to aid in the process of developing a recycling program.

  • Leadership. 

‘Green’ initiatives supported by adequate funding, ‘green’ purchasing and disposal policies within public agencies and public/private partnerships to promote the recycling agenda. 

  • Economic policies that make recycling more attractive than landfilling.

High landfill tipping fees, landfill taxes, and pay-as-you-throw pricing.  Deposit and refund schemes should be implemented on consumable products to boost recovery.

  • Mandatory recycling. 

Although controversial, there is a large portion of the population that will not participate until they are forced to do so. 

Ultimately the success of a recycling program will hinge on leadership at the local level.  Communities with an elected body that supports green initiatives and a strong community network of citizens, non-profits, schools and businesses that further strengthen the recycling movement will achieve success.  Those without strong leadership will struggle.

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  1. Posted November 28, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I suggest adding a facebook like button for the blog!

    • lacroix01
      Posted November 29, 2011 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      Helen, you’re right on, and I’m working on it. Hope to have that added within the next few days!

      • Posted December 14, 2011 at 5:43 am | Permalink

        That ralely captures the spirit of it. Thanks for posting.

    • Posted December 14, 2011 at 12:47 am | Permalink

      Articles like this just make me want to visit your wbeiste even more.

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