In Phoenix, voluntary commercial recycling is rewarded by the city
- Because commercial establishments in Phoenix aren't required to recycle, the city is making a point of recognizing ones that do pay for the service. Since the Phoenix Green Business Leader certification program launched in February, more than 1.1 million pounds of waste have been diverted by participants, as reported by azcentral.
- According to azcentral, 31 businesses are now participating in the program from a variety of sectors. Whole Foods, Goodwill and McNeilus are among some of the higher profile names. The certification requires businesses to offer recycling for both employees and customers, and also provide quarterly data to the city. In return, they get to promote their sustainability credentials and receive training, stickers and waste audit services.
- There has been some discussion of reversing a ban on businesses and large, multi-unit buildings having access to municipal collection services, but that is seen as a longer-term change. In the meantime, the Phoenix City Council is expected to take up a proposal that would require new apartment buildings to include adequate room for recycling containers.
In an ongoing effort to double its diversion rate to 40% by 2040, and to achieve "zero waste" by 2050, Phoenix continues to actively experiment with new approaches. So far this year, the Arizona city has launched a "hackathon" for recycling strategies, teamed up with Recyclebank for a new residential rewards program, deployed roll-off bins to public parks for apartment residents to use, and also begun working on targeted solutions for different portions of the waste stream. This has included the launch of a new waste-focused incubator at Arizona State University and new contracts for specific materials such as paint, carpeting and tree stumps.
These programs, and many others that have already launched or are in the works, are all seen as positive steps toward making Phoenix a "zero waste" city. However, as is often the case when it comes to developing new urban materials management plans, existing ordinances can be tough to work around. The idea of allowing the city to collect material from businesses and multi-unit buildings raises complicated questions of competition with private haulers. Another option would be mandating that these establishments arrange for some form of recycling collection, which would come with its own challenges.
The circumstances differ from city to city, but businesses and multi-unit residential buildings remain a common priority for many local governments looking to change their diversion policies. Even Seattle, often held up as a diversion leader, has reported lagging progress for its multi-unit buildings. Phoenix officials will work through making these changes at their own pace. Though if the city wants to achieve "zero waste" status, it may have to consider moving beyond voluntary measures to increase capture rates for these missing categories.
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