Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tips for Getting the Public to Use Recycle Containers

Cloudy day waiting for some rain to spin through.

Getting the public to use recycling containers may sound like a boring or futile subject but it definitely has some merit. I was at the Shaker Village in Canterbury yesterday, all day in one of their glorious barns. I had saturated a napkin with strawberry juice and headed to the trash can to dispose of it. I saw lots of recyclable items in the trash and I wondered why the Shaker village didn't recycle. My goodness, of all cultures, the Shakers would have been leading the recycling movement, had they not believed in celibacy.

I asked one of the volunteers if the Shaker Village recycled and she didn't know. (So far, this wasn't going very well with lots of room for improvement.) I asked the person in charge of the event, and she didn't know either nor had she planned for it even with the outdoor food offerings. I asked if Canterbury had "Pay as You Throw" and the answer was "yes". So what's wrong with this picture so far? Shaker Village doesn't appear to recycle and they have to pay for their trash based on weight. So much room for improvement.

On my way out, I stopped in the Museum Shop (beautiful shaker items) and asked if they recycled. "Oh yes, we have 2 bins at the front of the property." That's it? (I said that to myself) A couple of acres of property, over 10 buildings to stroll through, a museum, a restaurant, a shop and they have only 2 recycle bins? Then she went on to say that it wasn't very successful because people throw their trash in it and the staff has to sort through it. I asked if there was a trash can next to it, and the answer was no. There in lies the problem.

Last summer the City of Concord had 20 recycle containers at their annual Market Days event for the first time. They were randomly placed by the waste management team and the results were interesting, and important. When ever the recycle containers were buddied with a trash container, people did the right thing and there was almost zero contamination in the recycling bin and very little recyclables made it in the trash. However, when the containers were only 6 feet apart, people didn't bother to look around, they trashed what ever they had, recycling bin or not.

Back to Shaker Village... and this is true for any new place, when all you see is a trash can, most people assume that the facility does not recycle. Some people might look around for a recycling container, and only fanatics would hold on to their recyclable items for proper recycling. The take home message is, the lone trash can sends the message that there is no recycling.

So here are some tips for getting people to use recycling containers.

1 - Always buddy your recycling container with a trash can to prevent contamination.
2 - Clearly display what is considered acceptable recycled plastic? metal? paper?
3 - If only a trash can, have a sign directing people to a recycling container. (for folks who want to do the right thing)
4 - Never have a recycling container alone - it will definitely be used for trash.
5 - If you do not have single stream, have a bin for each category clearly marked with words and graphics. (little kids can recycle but might not be able to read)
5 - Thank people for helping to keep waste to minimum.

If you adopt these tips, I predict you will have a very successful recycling program.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for an interesting post! We lived in NH for a short time several years ago, and found it was almost impossible to recycle. Very different out here in the Midwest--we don't even need to sort our recycling anymore, which makes it even easier.

I agree w/ your tips--definitely having a trash can 'buddied' with the recycling helps. If I don't see a recycling container, I always ask--and have at times brought my recycling home w/ me.

My husband and I have taught our toddler to recycle at home--get it ingrained early! I just have to say 'Please put this in recycling for me' and he knows exactly where to go.

Real Green Girl Activist said...

Excellent! Thanks for taking the time to read AND write. Happy recycling.