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January 2007

Curbside Value Partnership announces results from recycling campaigns in New Jersey and Florida

The Aluminum Can Council’s Curbside Value Partnership program partnered with two diverse counties, one in Florida and one in New Jersey, to test what would motivate residents to participate more regularly in their curbside programs. Partnership activities resulted in increases in participation in both counties, demonstrating the universal need to make recycling as convenient as possible.

Pasco County, Florida and Burlington County, New Jersey have little in common. One is a largely rural but growing community on the Gulf of Mexico; the other is a bedroom community for one of America’s largest cities, Philadelphia. Both communities share the need to do something about the declining participation rates in their curbside programs.

While each community approached their problem in unique ways, the goal was the same - increase participation and get more curbside recycling bins, buckets or bags on the street.

Following is a detailed breakdown of each county’s challenge and results.

The CVP partnered with Burlington County’s Office of Recycling to reach out to county residents and let them know how easy it is to recycle. Burlington County had decent recycling rates, but participation waned in certain parts of the county. The education campaign began in mid-2006 and featured several “bucket” drives with the goal of getting more buckets on the street, especially in four target communities with lower participation rates.

“We’ve found the reason many residents do not recycle is they simply don’t know how to get started. By delivering the message and the bucket to our residents, we made it easier for them to be involved. Once they have a bucket, the habit of recycling becomes much more convenient and appealing,” said Ann Moore, curbside recycling coordinator for Burlington County.

Through a local partnership, the Junior ROTC helped spread the word about curbside recycling. Members hung informational door hangers and visited door-to-door in target neighborhoods to let people know how to start recycling.

The results showed the county noticed a 4.4% increase in participation among residents in the test markets. Additionally, pounds recycled per household increased by 2.3 pounds, compared to a slight decrease in the control markets of -1.0 pounds. Based on the data, the bin drives and grassroots outreach had a significant positive impact on recycling rates.

Pasco County, Florida has a blue bag recycling program whereby residents purchase their own blue bags if they want to recycle. CVP partnered with them in their recent program to test whether the existing blue bag program or a switch to traditional 18-gallon bins would be more successful in lifting participation rates.

The program, which took place in a fast growing area of the county, divided the community into two areas: one half would receive free blue bags and the other half would receive two free blue bins. Residents were asked to respond to an initial survey gauging their feedback to the existing program, and were also given additional materials describing the test and how they would benefit from taking part. Newspaper, a commodity previously not accepted at the curb due to its weight, was also added, allowing county officials to gauge whether residents would respond to the added convenience.

Not surprisingly, households with the blue bins had far higher set-out rates and recycling volume than their blue bag neighbors. Below are the highlights of the pilot program:

  • Set-out rates for the blue bag pilot route were 12.37% higher than the pre-pilot benchmark where residents were asked to purchase their own bags. Blue bin households fared even better, setting out bins 50.35% more compared to average rates in the same area before the pilot.
  • When compared to the blue bag pilot route, blue bin households had a 37.98% increase in set-out rates.
  • The two-bin pilot route recycled 13.58 more tons of overall materials than the pilot blue bag route (a 48% increase).
  • The two-bin pilot route recycled 13.45 more tons of newspaper than the blue bag route (a 92% increase).
  • The two-bin pilot route recycled 260 more pounds of co-mingled materials than the blue bag route (a 1% increase).

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