6 Steps to Starting a Community Recycling Program

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Your city doesn’t have a recycling program, and you want to do something to change that — so where do you start? It’s a big task, but it can be done. Let these six steps be your guide.

Step 1: Build a team

To create a recycling program, the first thing you’ll need is a team of motivated and environmentally minded community members, including politicians. You’ll need help in many areas to build a program, such as with issuing the best collection bins and equipment, choosing and negotiating with the recycling hauler, and understanding and negotiating different contracts and budgets.

Step 2: Create a plan

Outline the program’s objectives, keeping them as focused as possible. As a recycling team, you have many things to determine: Will you include businesses and apartments in the program, or just houses? What are you going to recycle? What recyclables do the haulers want? How often will you pick up recyclables, or will you have a drop-off center? Can you offset some of the costs by partnering with a neighboring community? The goals need to be specific to your community’s size and what you decide to recycle.

Step 3: Choose which materials to recycle

Deciding which materials to recycle seems like the easy part. It can be a slippery slope, though, if you aren’t specific about the materials that will be part of the program — you’ll have community members who want to recycle odd items like phone books and electronics . . . and then they’ll try to set out an old washing machine. The team needs to focus on not only removing materials from the waste stream but finding a market for them.

To start with, what recyclables does your community generate in the greatest quantities? To better answer this, conduct a waste assessment to see what is currently being thrown away. The most common items include aluminum, steel food containers, certain glass and plastic bottles, and various acceptable papers. Also check with your state’s recycling office about restrictions regarding materials such as recycling yard waste and household hazardous waste.

Next page: The final three steps