- Vallejo, California recently launched the latest edition of a residential and commercial recycling incentive program that rewards proper recycling rather than penalizing consumers' mistakes. Recycling Today reports this program started in 2014, inspired by a similar initiative in Berkeley.
- Participation in the year-long program gives Recycling Coordinator Derek Crutchfield permission to go through the applicant's waste and recyclables. Once a month, he will randomly select a participating address and arrive unannounced to check if recyclables are sorted correctly or have been thrown out.
- If the inspection yields acceptable results, the households will receive one of 12 "packages" for a year of free waste collection service from Recology. Multi-family residences and businesses could receive $1,000 off their trash bill.
A growing number of municipalities around the country have begun using cart inspections and tagging to inform residents and businesses that they're recycling improperly. The tagging process has become especially popular in the last year, as China's tighter quality standards have increased focus on the costs of contamination. The process has been found to successfully reduce contamination and increase capture rates for select materials in multiple cities.
Yet results from groups such as The Recycling Partnership have also shown that too much negative or unclear messaging can be less successful. Vallejo's strategy of positive reinforcement, similar in a way to other financial incentive programs, is another unique tactic to encourage desired behavior. Whether this random approach can achieve similar results to a more comprehensive inspection program, or more widespread policy of financial penalties, remains to be seen outside of specific instances.
Vallejo has employed a number of different techniques to raise recycling awareness and boost recycling rates. The city holds an annual recycled art contest and, earlier this year, offered businesses and multi-family residences a chance to win $500 off their trash bills in exchange for taking a survey about their waste and recycling service.
Crutchfield was recently named the 2017-2018 Municipal Member of the Year by the Solid Waste Association of North America Gold Rush Chapter for his service and dedication to the solid waste industry.