Launch Slideshow

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Taking a diversion

Taking a diversion

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    Photo: Nestle Purina PetCare Co.

    Springfield, Mo.'s paper is collected at recycling centers and then unloaded in the Nestle Purina PetCare plant.

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    Photo: Carl Hursh, DEP Waste Reduction & Recycling Program

    Philadelphia's pilot RecycleBank program collects recyclable materials with a curbside pickup. Here, the container is being lifted and weighed on a city recycling truck. Pennsylvania has a high diversion rate compared to other states.

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    Photo: Carl Hursh, DEP Waste Reduction & Recycling Program

    Making recycling easy for residents is key to increasing diversion rates. In the Harrisburg (Pa.) International Airport's new terminal, public recycling containers are scattered around the facility.

Starting—or improving—your diversion tactics

The best waste diversion program leaders have a plan and stick to it. Here are some tips from the pros about how to increase your municipality's diversion rates.

Develop a plan, strategy, and timeline. Setting a diversion percentage goal, whether it's the EPA's or your own, is important. One person or a committee within the department should follow through on this goal. Breaking this plan into smaller steps—having a strategy—is a must. A timeline for each step of implementation also is imperative.

Enlist citizen buy-in, and then educate them. An educated public is more likely to go along with the plan if they're both aware of and have a say in the diversion goals. “All the services and programs in the world will do you no good if your citizens don't know you have them and how to access them,” said Barbara J. Lucks, materials recovery/education coordinator with the Springfield, Mo., Public Works Department.

Make recycling convenient and available. By offering constituents different and easy options to recycle both at home and around the community, diversion will increase. “Experience has shown that greater convenience leads to greater participation and larger collections,” said Charlie Young, Department of Environmental Protection information specialist. “We have seen recycling's technology of convenience evolve from the sorting of individual categories of materials into individual recycling bins, to commingled collection in wheeled carts.”

Recycling programs should be market-savvy. Recycled materials can be manufactured to be reused locally, such as shredded tires reused in playground areas, or can be sold or traded in a world market. Costs for recycling may be indexed to market prices, and revenues may be shared with the city.

Enlist the help of local groups and associations. Local community organizations and national environmental associations are good resources for volunteers and information. “We partner with solid waste management districts, the Missouri Recycling Association, and the Missouri Waste Control Coalition,” said Dennis Hansen, solid waste management program planning unit chief with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Consultants and marketing organizations may also be useful, though there is often a cost.