Being environmentally conscious should be easy and not feel like a chore. If more people could commit to making easy changes at home, the global impact would be huge! The easiest way to get people to start making these changes is through education and opportunity. Educating people on simple steps they can take to make adjustments to their normal lives will make a big difference. Furthermore, giving people convenient opportunities to execute these changes and making it easy to implement them into their daily lives ensures the ongoing success of lasting, permanent change.
Recycling something should be as easy as it is to send it to the landfill. When waste haulers began offering recycling pick-up routes, the waste diversion number went through the roof. Additionally, when the opportunity to offer co-mingled recycling (all in one cart) came along, diversion rates shot up again. Both solutions make recycling easier and move the needle in the right direction toward making a larger impact.
There are other examples of ways convenience has positively impacted recycling rates. Companies that offer community battery, light-bulb and e-waste recycling events report huge success and further validate that when given an easy, convenient way to recycle, people are much more likely to participate in recycling. Implementing these additional diversion opportunities makes it simple for individuals to recycle and grows the mission of earth preservation to include more and more people.
Working as a waste consultant, I’m constantly reviewing local waste streams and looking for opportunities to help communities grow their recycling programs. When I’m reviewing dumpsters, I always see items in the trash that shouldn’t be there: clothing that should have gone to charity, light bulbs that should have been recycled, televisions that should be recycled as e-waste, good furniture that should have a second life with another family – the list goes on and on. The key to keeping these types of materials out of the landfill is to educate people on what should be recycled and give people convenient opportunities and locations to easily do the right thing.
Here are a few useful opportunities that you might considering trying to help out in your community.
The UWaste Box. Aresidential universal waste recycling kit is the size of a shoe box and is given to multi-family housing units, as well as single family HOA’s.
Purpose: These boxes are designed to be a central location in homes for lights, batteries, cell phones, ink cartridges and other similar materials. They are picked up curbside or at the doorstep twice a year and recycled appropriately to keep harmful elements out of our soil and local waterways.
Universal Waste Kiosk. A commercial-scale universal waste station.
Purpose: These are designed to be housed in convenient locations of high-rises or commercial buildings so residents, tenants or employees can easily recycle universal waste items as they come and go from the building. Many are living in high-rise buildings downtown without the ability to recycle their universal and electronic waste in an easy fashion.
Onsite or Curbside E-waste Events. Collecting e-waste at the source.
Purpose: Today, we are seeing a number of illegal pop-up events, usually on the weekends at some commercial parking lot. These events offer a place people can take their e-waste, but they are not an effective means for proper data destruction. As a result, there is a great need for offering curbside e-waste pickup both on the residential side and business side. If tenants know a trusted source is coming by on a specific date and can certify data destruction along with collection, the individuals are much more likely to purge the material rather than hold it in storage for another season without use.
Upcycle and donate clothing. Collecting clothing at the source and in a time of need.
Purpose: We’ve seen boxes and boxes of clothing thrown in the trash, specifically in dumpsters of apartment complexes or condominiums with high percentages of rental units. When it’s time to move, the neglected boxes that don’t fit in the moving truck end up in the dumpster instead of finding their way to a second life. Offering curbside clothing pickup or holding clothing events regularly will help reduce the amount of clothing sent to the landfills.
Community Garage Sales and storage clean-outs followed by curbside donation and bulk item days. Creating events that encourage proactive decluttering.
Purpose: Another trend that happens regularly in communities with high move-in/move-out rates is furniture disposal and disposal of other large items in dumpster enclosures. Offering regular community bulk-item events encourages individuals to purge items throughout the year. This helps communities to decrease the amount of illegal dumping that often happens in common area locations.
When community leaders step up to make small changes for their neighborhoods and businesses by making it easier for their neighbors and tenants to make small changes, we see a ripple effect where one small act begins to make a big difference.