- Flagstaff, AZ is taking a new approach to improving its 14% residential diversion rate. Starting in February, residents will have the opportunity to take a six-week class and become "master recyclers," as reported by the Arizona Daily Sun.
- The city is looking for 30 residents to start and the cost is $50. They will learn the technical details of recycling, composting, refurbishment, reuse, toxin reduction and more from area professionals. Facility tours will also be included to give these residents an up-close look at where their waste goes.
- In addition to attending these sessions, the city's only requirement is that the master recyclers agree to spend 30 hours volunteering to teach their fellow residents what they've learned.
This idea is based on an existing program in Portland, OR and is also similar to a master composter certificate program offered in New York. The new class is part of a broader push by Flagstaff to expand recycling infrastructure and raise awareness through new marketing materials. Pilot programs focused on food waste reduction in multi-unit buildings have also begun and are seeing success so far.
Direct engagement with residents about their recycling habits has been an ongoing trend as haulers look to reduce contamination while getting more quality material. Waste Management has been sending interns door-to-door in the Seattle area for multiple years now. Some municipalities have even started using recycling mascots to spread their message.
In addition to increasing its diversion rate, Flagstaff also wants to decrease its per capita waste generation which can often require different strategies. According to the latest EPA data, per capita generation decreased ever so slightly in 2014 though is still more than 4.4 pounds per person. Recent studies in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. have all shown that confusion remains around recycling practices, though in many cases residents were interested in learning about where their material went.