One of the most frustrating things about recycling is the rules around recycling vary so much from community to community. One county may have a permanent electronics recycling collection center, while another may rely on occasional collection events. One community may have plastic bag collection bins everywhere, while in a neighboring town you have to hunt all over for them. What can you do to demand that your community recycle more? Here are several ideas.
Learn everything you can about recyclingIf you’re going to start advocating for something, it’s always a good idea to learn as much as it as possible. Make sure you have a good understanding of how your community’s recycling programs work and what resources are available. If your waste management organization offers a Master Recycler class, take it. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has some great resources that describe how communities increased their recycling rates or even started moving toward zero waste. It helps to know a little about how waste management and recycling systems work. For example:
- Although trash and recycling is almost always picked up by a private company, that company may have to work within rules set by the county. Your local government may require the hauler to meet a certain recycling rate in order to keep operating in the area. In some places, one hauler gets an exclusive contract to pick up recycling. In other places, you can choose. Going with the hauler that has a better recycling program is one way you can “vote with your dollar” and encourage recycling.
- Building an incinerator is the best way to decrease recycling rates in your community.
- Incinerator operators require a certain amount of waste be burned every year. To meet their contractual obligations, communities often have to divert easy-to-recycle items like paper and cardboard to the incinerator – and away from recycling programs.
- A community’s ability to recycle depends on its ability to send your recyclable products to a company for recycling – hopefully, one that will buy them rather than charging the government to take them away. Because of that, increasing recycling isn’t always as simple as dedicating more money to a problem or changing policies.