Recycle more, recycle right, is the motto that the Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County, Mich., (RRRASOC) follows to promote recycling within the nine communities that it serves.
For years, RRRASOC has had a successful curbside recycling program, but it recently started working on taking its outreach and education efforts to another level by providing residents with a quick and easy way to find out what can and cannot be recycled within their community.
“For a long time, we were sending binders of alphabetized recycling rules to our municipalities, but it started to become more and more difficult to keep everyone updated with changes to the rules because everything was being done by paper,” says Mike Csapo, general manager of RRRASOC. “We wanted a simple way to share and promote consistent and uniformed information across all the communities that we serve, and the ReCollect Systems’ online recycling directory tool has allowed us to do just that.”
In February 2016, RRRASOC launched its customized version of ReCollect’s online recycling directory, which features information on hundreds of materials and can be accessed via the web and mobile devices.
The ReCollect online recycling directory allows users to search for specific items or materials to find out if that item or material should be recycled, thrown in the garbage, brought to a hazardous waste collection event, brought to a scrap yard, placed in a yard waste bin, etc.
“ReCollect has customers across North America, and over time, we have built up a default list of materials that residents have a tendency to look up,” says John Watson, director of customer success at ReCollect Systems. “We used that default list to develop the directory, and then we made the directory customizable so that users can easily make changes and updates as information on more materials become available.”
If the directory users happen to have a hard time finding or understanding information on a specific item or material, they can suggest that the item or material be added to the directory or that information on that item or material be revised.
“The suggestion feature of the directory is very valuable to us because it allows us to see what types of materials and items people are thinking about and trying to dispose of properly,” says Csapo. “The terminology or spelling that we use may be slightly different than the terminology or spelling that people in our different communities use so the feature allows us to see where we need to make additions, updates and changes within the directory.”
Csapo makes updates and additions to the directory a few times per week, ensuring that the suggestion list doesn’t stay a suggestion list for very long. In addition, he works closely with other RRRASOC team members to review data available from the directory, such as the total number of materials searched, the top 10 materials searched, the total number of mobile app downloads and the total number of support requests received and forwarded to RRRASOC for resolution.
“Since we deployed the directory about a year and a half ago, we have had more than 50,000 searches for individual items and about 75,000 unique visits,” states Csapo. “We have also seen improvements in our recycling streams that we manage in our materials recovery facility. Over time, we expect to see more searches and unique visits, as well as changes in participation rates, recycling rates and contamination rates.”
Currently, the recycling rates vary in the nine communities that RRRASOC serves—some communities hover in the mid 40 percent range and other communities hold steady in the upper 50 percent range. One of RRRASOC’s short-term goals is to have its lowest performing communities perform at or above the average of what its highest communities are performing at.
“Some of our communities are managing to divert 400 pounds per household, and we believe that the ReCollect online recycling directory is something that can help increase that pounds per household performance over time,” says Csapo. “Our long-term goal is to have our top communities perform as well as the other top communities found in the U.S. so that we are seen as one of the leading counties in the nation.”
Earlier this year, RRRASOC was presented with an Excellence in Recycling Award in the Outstanding Education category from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for its deployment of the ReCollect online recycling directory.
“The award was a great honor for us, especially since we just launched the online recycling directory last year,” comments Csapo. “Moving forward, we will continue to promote the notion of recycle more, recycle right, and we will continue to improve our education and outreach efforts so that our residents gain a better understanding of what can and cannot be recycled. The online recycling directory is going to play a huge role in our education and outreach efforts going forward, and I hope more and more of our residents start to view the online recycling directory as a convenient and resourceful tool.”