Atlanta launches campaign to reduce contamination in recyclables

Atlanta’s Office of Resilience and Department of Public Works has begun working with The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit based in Falls Church, Virginia, to improve recycling in the city through the “Feet on the Street” public service and educational campaign.

The Atlanta campaign launched July 24, 2017, as a pilot program, targeting one route in each of the city’s four quadrants. The campaign includes targeted messaging and direct feedback with the goal of reducing contamination in the city’s residential recycling bins and increasing the quantity and quality of recyclables collected.

Residents receive direct mailings and are exposed to newspaper ads, social media posts and signage throughout town about what does and does not belong in their recycling carts. Additionally, city employees walk each of the targeted recycling routes to “tip and tag.” They tip the lids of recycling carts and tag those that contain contaminants. Contaminated carts receive an informational “oops” tag that highlights the contaminant within and are not serviced.

The effort to educate residents about what is recyclable has proven to reduce contaminants in other cities, which saves cities money and makes recycling more efficient, The Recycling Partnership says.

The street team logs contamination via a smartphone app from Rubicon Global, an Atlanta-based waste management company.

“When people put the wrong items in their recycling carts, handling those materials costs taxpayer dollars,” says Michelle Wiseman of Atlanta’s Office of Resilience. “We want to help our residents correct these issues and recycle right. Our city is quickly becoming an environmental leader—not just in the U.S. but [also] in the world—and better recycling is an important step on that journey.”