Sustainable Products Solution - RSE-USA

Free Tools for Boosting Recycling Performance

I dislike making generalities, but I think I’m safe on this one: local recycling professionals are stretched thin – their “to do” list far outweighs the time and resources available to complete each task on the list. Sharing tools and informational materials can only help, don’t you think? With that in mind, I’d like to point out some policy-related resources that are available to recycling professionals.

Brief fact sheets on local -tools for increasing recycling have recently been developed by the Carton Council to help address recycling access gaps and boost materials recovery. These tools are facts-based, commodity neutral and remain unbranded – so NGOs, SROs, and state agencies can freely share them with local governments. The fact sheets have descriptions of the strategy and its applications, best practices for implementation and working examples about several policies that support the principles of sustainable materials management (SMM). They include:

  • Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) – is a variable user fee mechanism shown to be the single most effective means of reducing the quantity of MSW disposed by households (particularly single family households), when best practices are used. Communities that implemented PAYT dispose of 49 percent less MSW, on average, when compared to communities with tax-based or flat fee trash service. PAYT supports SMM in that it provides a direct financial incentive to reduce the amount of waste disposed – through recycling, composting and source reduction.
  • Mandatory provision of recycling services through hauler licensing – There are many communities that do not have organized collection of trash and recycling. Still, local governments can mandate that haulers providing trash collection also provide recycling collection to their trash customers, usually at no additional cost. Some communities even stipulate which materials must be collected – this helps harmonize service, alleviating confusion among residents. This policy supports SMM by broadening access to recycling services and can help harmonize the materials collected by different haulers in an open collection system.
  • Universal recycling access – Universal recycling policies require the provision of recycling opportunities wherever trash disposal is available. This is sometimes referred to as parallel access. Such policies help expand recycling access, particularly in public spaces and events as well as multi-family dwellings – thus supporting SMM. Some states in the NERC region (Vermont, Delaware, and Connecticut) require universal recycling statewide, but their specific provisions vary. Some cities (e.g., Austin, TX) have specific signage requirements, and some have guidelines regarding the volume of recycling that must be provided on site (e.g., relative to the volume of garbage, or to the number of dwelling units).

Tools are also provided on how to implement local ordinances (as some recycling professionals may not have had experience in this arena) and how policies can support recycling. These materials can be found here.

The Carton Council and Southeastern Recycling Development Council (SERDC) recently co-hosted a webinar on PAYT. The webinar recording is available online here, and includes background information about PAYT as well as best practices, and features the experiences of Wilmington, N.C. (commercial and residential curbside PAYT as well as a commercial district program) and Onslow County, N.C. (drop-off).

In addition, a website,, has been developed to serve as a clearinghouse for information about pay-as-you-throw programs, including best practices, results, Q&A, descriptions of different types of PAYT options, research, and more.

Here’s to advancing the sharing economy!

Susan Bush