- The Recycling Partnership has teamed up with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for a targeted campaign to change residential recycling behavior this year. Four communities—West Springfield, Lowell, Needham, and Holden—have been selected to represent the national state of curbside and drop-off recycling programs.
- Working with MRF operators, haulers, and a consulting firm, the "MoreBetter Program" has already identified problem items in the waste stream and is working directly with residents to change their disposal habits. Bagged recyclables, film, food waste, and textiles have all been noted as areas for improvement.
- The goal is to produce best practices and guidelines for communicating with residents about recycling contamination nationwide. The Recycling Partnership plans to make this "toolkit" available on their website by the end of the year.
Recycling education has been going on for decades, and it's been shown that the average person understands and believes in the basic concept, but proper sorting still remains a challenge. Standards differ between communities, rules change over time, and some materials can be confusing to classify. Some people in the industry say mixed-waste processing is the best way to ensure the highest possible capture rate, though the concept has yet to fully take off on a large scale.
Single-stream recycling is seen as a compromise between no sorting and the multi-category systems in some European countries, but behavioral contamination still remains an issue. The Recycling Partnership's pilot addresses this by placing "oops" or "thank you" tags on carts and running specific educational campaigns based on problem items. For example, if one neighborhood keeps putting textiles in the bin, residents could receive a reminder magnet in the mail.
While this level of specificity may not be possible everywhere, the nonprofit's education campaigns in cities such as Phoenix, Columbus, Atlanta, and Norfolk have yielded results. Too many municipalities use their education budgets to put the same information on bus stop ads or mailers year after year with the hope that their message will finally sink in through repetition. If anything is ever going to change, it might be time to start experimenting with new ideas.