“Feet on the Street” Recycling Information Campaign Begins June 1st
Spokane County, WA, May 27, 2020 – If you have curbside recycling, then a special information campaign may be coming soon to your neighborhood. “Feet on the Street” (part of Spokane County’s “Recycle Right” outreach program) will begin on June 1, 2020. Residents on 30 routes within Spokane County will see a special tag attached to their blue recycling cart. The tag will have information about what is – and is not – recyclable. The purpose is simple – to reduce the contamination of recycled materials.
For the past couple of years Spokane County and the major waste haulers that offer curbside recycling (City of Spokane, Sunshine Disposal and Recycling, and Waste Management) have noticed a significant increase in the contamination of recycled materials. It’s caused by putting non-recyclable items into your recycling cart. These items must then be removed when the recycling is sorted at the material sorting facility, which takes extra time, and makes recycling more expensive and less financially feasible. Also, it can damage equipment, and can put workers at risk.
The Spokane County Regional Solid Waste System received a $147,000 grant from The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit organization. These grant funds, together with funding from a revenue-sharing agreement between Spokane County and Waste Management,
will be used to print informational postcards that will be mailed the week of May 18th, hire 11 “cart taggers,” and print the cart tags for recycling carts on 30 routes within Spokane County, beginning on June 1st. Waste Management and Sunshine Disposal and Recycling customers will all receive the same flyer attached to the handle of their recycling cart, while City of Spokane customers will receive individualized feedback about contamination found in their cart. A key part of the “Feet on the Street” campaign is that the cart-tagging will be repeated for three weeks.
In the fall of 2018, Spokane County and the three haulers came together for a much smaller effort that involved only a few routes within the county. Three members of that team gave a presentation on their experience at a solid waste conference in spring 2019.
The Recycling Partnership was impressed by the presentation, and the county’s multi-hauler partnerships, and approached the team. Through 2019, discussions continued about an expanded cart tagging program and in early 2020, The Recycling Partnership offered Spokane County a grant of $147,000 to expand the project scope to tagging 30 different routes, four times each.
The entire local team is excited to be pursuing this type of tangible recycling education and outreach to residents, and knows that Spokane County is a special place that thrives on public-private partnerships to create positive change.
About The Recycling Partnership
The Recycling Partnership (recyclingpartnership.org) is a national nonprofit organization that leverages corporate partner funding to transform recycling for good in states, cities, and communities across the U.S. As the only organization in the country that engages the full recycling supply chain from the corporations that manufacture products and packaging to local governments charged with recycling to industry end markets, haulers, material recovery facilities, and converters; The Recycling Partnership positively impacts recycling at every step in the process.
The Recycling Partnership has served more than 1,500 communities and counting with best-in-class tools, data, resources and technical support. The organization has helped place more than 700,000 recycling carts in communities, reached 77 million American households, and helped companies and communities invest more than $53 million in recycling infrastructure. In doing so, The Recycling Partnership has created meaningful social, environmental, and economic change. By the end of 2019, the nonprofit change agent estimates it diverted 230 million pounds of new recyclables from landfills, saved 465 million gallons of water, avoided more than 250,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, and driven significant reductions in targeted contamination rates.
For more information, go to: www.spokanecountysolidwaste.org
Frequently Asked Questions
The “Feet on the Street” Cart Tagging Campaign is part of Spokane County’s “Recycle Right” outreach program.
What is the “Feet on the Street” cart tagging study?
This program is just one activity the City of Spokane, Sunshine Disposal and Recycling, Waste Management and Spokane County are doing to reduce contamination in curbside recycling. Contamination is when a recycling cart has non-recyclable items in it. Contamination drives up operation costs, can damage equipment and can be unsafe for haulers and recycle center employees. With funding from The Recycling Partnership, workers will leave informational tags on the recycling carts of selected routes. Tags will provide feedback to residents about any contamination present in their cart. The routes will be monitored for 4 consecutive weeks. The contents of the collection trucks will be evaluated before and after the cart tagging study to see if the cart tags helped to reduce contamination.
How are routes chosen to be in the study?
15 City routes (about 1 in 5 total City routes) and 15 routes within the County (about 1 in 5 County routes) were chosen for this cart tagging study, using information about historic contamination levels.
When will I need to have my recycle cart out at the curb on my service day?
Even if you know the recycling truck doesn’t come down your street until later in the day, we would still like everyone to have their recycle carts at the curb by 5 a.m. on your regular service day as the taggers will be checking carts before the trucks come by.
What is the tag on my cart and what does it mean?
The tag is also called an “Oops Tag” and it’s an informational card that will be attached to your cart’s handle by our Feet on the Street workers to give you feedback about the items in your recycling cart. If there are specific items in your cart that are not recyclable, the tag will identify those.
For carts serviced by Waste Management and Sunshine Disposal and Recycling, the tag is an informational flyer given to educate residents about the most problematic non-recyclable items found in recycling carts. The goal is to reduce curbside recycling contamination, to safeguard the health and safety of workers and keep the recycling system running efficiently.
Will I be charged extra if there are things that don’t belong in my recycle cart?
If taggers notice a large amount of contamination in a City of Spokane recycling cart, you may receive a tag that will notify the drivers to reject your cart. In that case, you may be charged a modest fee as the cart will have to be dumped as garbage. This practice is in place to encourage residents to be more careful about what they put in their recycling cart. Because the tags used by Waste Management and Sunshine Disposal and Recycling are purely informational, carts serviced by these haulers will not be rejected at this time.
When does this study begin and end? Can I see results of the study?
The study is intended to take place June through November 2020. Cart tagging will wrap up in September and data analysis will be completed in November. Results will be posted on my.spokanecity.org and spokanecountysolidwaste.org.
Who do I contact if I have questions?
For general questions, city residents can call the MySpokaneCity customer service representatives at 311, and County residents can call the County’s Recycling Hotline at 477-6800 (calls answered Mon-Fri, 8:30am-5pm). Residents can also check the City and County websites and social media accounts.
What is our current rate of contamination in recycling and what is our goal?
The average percentage of contamination currently in Spokane County’s curbside recycling program is 13%. There are some routes higher than that and a few lower. The goal in the City of Spokane is to reduce that to 5% by 2021. The top 5 offenders (items put in the recycling cart that are not recyclable) in the region are: plastic bags/film, tanglers (hoses, chains, etc.), food/liquid, batteries, and to-go cups/lids.
If I can’t put plastic bags in my cart, what can I do with them instead?
Try not to collect plastic bags if you can. Reduction is always preferable. If you do have clean plastic bags, many retailers will take those back. Look for a collection box inside the door of your store as you go inside. If your store doesn’t take them back and you can’t reuse them as trash can liners or to pick up after pets, they should go into the garbage.
Why can’t I bag my recyclables? I want to keep my cart clean.
If you recycle correctly by emptying all containers of food and liquid, the cart should remain clean and odor free. If bagged or boxed recyclables are placed in the recycling carts, the recyclables are treated as contamination/garbage and will be sent to the Waste to Energy facility or landfill, driving up program costs and reducing efficiency. Recyclables must be clean, dry, and loose in the cart in order to be recycled properly.
What if I don’t want you checking my recycling cart?
Logistically, due to the large number of households we contact throughout the course of the study, we can’t honor individual requests to exempt carts. We need comprehensive information on all carts throughout the selected routes to collect unbiased information, to inform future management considerations and reduce curbside contamination. We appreciate your cooperation and patience throughout the study, and hope you gain helpful information from it. Please notify us by contacting us through 311 or the County’s Recycling Hotline at 477-6800 if you have feedback about the study. We’d love to hear from you.
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