- Residents of Des Moines, IA can now be recognized for their recycling skills with a special gold-colored cart lid as part of a new voluntary program through the city's Department of Public Works, as reported by WHO TV.
- Residents will receive a special lid if no contamination is found in their carts after two successive, voluntary audits. So far, more than 100 people have called the city to schedule audits.
- Each lid costs the city $3, but the city notes this is far less expensive than the $10,000 in monthly contamination costs caused by improper recycling. The city's director of public works estimates that up to 20% of the material ending up in recycling carts is refuse.
While some residents have balked at the idea of city employees digging through their carts for an audit, others clearly see it as a fun way to display their recycling prowess. As more cities make the switch to single-stream collection they have also been looking for creative contamination remedies. Some form of public display, whether it's a cart tag or the fact that a bin wasn't picked up at all, is seen as a positive way to encourage comparison between neighbors and raise awareness.
Even though many communities have had recycling access for years, if not decades, surveys have shown that it still isn't a cultural norm on a national level. In an effort to move beyond traditional educational strategies, some cities have begun offering classes for residents to become "master recyclers" and finding other ways to teach them more about what happens after they put their materials at the curb.
As part of its efforts to achieve a high diversion rate target by 2050, Des Moines has also launched a new pilot program to expand recycling access in one of its downtown neighborhoods and is looking to expand residential recycling options. Meanwhile, legislators at the state level are considering big changes to Iowa's bottle bill that may affect recycling options.