In 2008, Philadelphia’s recycling rate sat at a dismal 7 percent, but city officials are out to change all that — and their approach is working.
Since endorsing a five-point plan laid out by the RecycleNOW Philadelphia campaign, Mayor Michael Nutter has followed through on his promise to greatly expand the city’s recycling program, including the addition of cardboard, cartons and nearly all rigid plastics #1-7.
The city also introduced the Philadelphia Recycling Rewards program, powered by Recyclebank, to further encourage residents to recycle. In a major milestone for the city, its curbside recycling rate passed the 20 percent mark in 2012. The goal is to reach 25 percent by 2015.
Although recycling rates are soaring, many residents remain confused about what is and is not recyclable. It’s hard to blame them; the city only recently switched to single-stream recycling, and new materials are added to the “accepted” list nearly every year.
To help educate residents on what belongs in the blue bin, Recyclebank teamed up with the Streets Department to host the Philly Recycles Tour last month.
The tour made eight stops throughout the city. Staffers passed out more than 1,900 recycling bins and answered residents’ questions about curbside recycling and how to dispose of trickier materials like paints and batteries.
“We picked the locations based on either limited access to recycling bins, lower diversion rates, low recycling participation or just areas that are often overlooked for a number of reasons,” explained Virginia Cain, community outreach coordinator for Recyclebank in Philadelphia, who helped organize the tour.
“Our main goal is always to increase recycling rates in the city,” she continued. “Recycling saves the city money. It’s good for the environment, and in Philly we’re lucky enough that we can get rewarded for it.”
Through the rewards program, residents receive Recyclebank points for recycling curbside — which can be redeemed for deals and discounts at local businesses.
Cain said the tour was a big success, adding that Recyclebank plans to host another series next summer.
“We’re just really proud of it,” she told Earth911. “We hope that it really touched a lot of people, and we hope that a lot of questions are answered.”