Booming Cities Keep Recycling Rates High

Increased traffic, noise and pollution all affect communities facing dramatic growth, but one group of cities and counties is concerned about another type of fallout: decreased recycling rates. In addition to working through the problems of population increases, 16 North Central Texas municipalities are boosting their recycling efforts to keep up with their expansions.

"Time to Recycle," developed by the North Central Texas Council, is a comprehensive multimedia campaign designed to increase recycling participation rates by creatively motivating households, according to Meredith Scott, an environmental planner with the organization. The campaign attempts to convey a consistent message and to establish a sense of familiarity for people who relocate within the North Central Texas region.

"There still are people who think that it is too difficult or time consuming to recycle," Scott says.

Since the campaign's Earth Day (April 22) kick-off, the number of telephone calls and e-mails to recycling coordinators has increased tremendously. Scott sees these inquiries as evidence of a successful program. "People are asking questions," she says. "They want to know where they can drop-off plastics or how they can recycle in their offices - and we're finding solutions for them."

While Scott admits that the campaign's participating cities and counties already have successful recycling rates, there is room for growth, she says.

Consider Frisco, Texas, a community that reportedly has experienced a 300 percent population increase. While this growth presents huge opportunities, recycling only can succeed if households are informed about the programs available and other waste reduction methods, Scott says.

That's where Time to Recycle fits in. Funded by a $250,000 grant from the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, this cohesive message has been splashed on billboards and mass transit vehicles, as well as on newspaper advertisements, bumper stickers and promotional items across the region.

In addition, the campaign's website, www.timetorecycle.com, allows Texans to learn about recycling in their community. Nearly 2,500 people have visited the site in less than four months.

According to Scott, one campaign challenge was to localize, or tailor, the message to individual communities. In a large region such as North Central Texas, it is unlikely for two communities to offer identical solid waste programs, she says. Thus, the website has become the perfect avenue to meet this challenge.

By pointing-and-clicking on a select city, residents can find recycling information pertinent to them, such as drop-off sites, recycling collection days, composting information, household hazardous waste drop-offs, cleanup days and special waste events. The site, which addresses many of the residents' frequently asked questions, also has helped the regional recycling offices become more efficient.

Further local efforts have been made in several cities. For instance, the city of Irving uses magnetic signs to turn its fleet of recycling trucks into moving advertisements for the Time to Recycle website.

The campaign, which took six months to develop, is the result of the efforts of both regional recycling coordinators and community members. "A campaign of this scope requires a lot of people," Scott admits. "There's a lot to do, from bidding on billboards to buying space on mass transit." Nevertheless, the regional team is confident that money spent on advertising is justified by higher recycling rates.

All campaign updates are made at monthly metroplex recycling coordinator roundtable meetings. The Environmental Resource Department at the North Central Texas Council of Governments maintains the website and leads the campaign. According to Scott, funds for the media blitz must be spent by August 31, 2001. However, the website will continue in the long-term. In fact, the team plans to expand its composting and household hazardous waste programs and buy-recycled website pages.

"This is not a monetary campaign," Scott says. "We are taking a mainstream approach to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfills. Many people still consider recycling to be a tree-hugging endeavor. That's why we put the emphasis on education, rather than begging citizens to preserve natural resources."

As the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission grant nears expiration, the Environmental Resource Department at the North Central Texas Council of Governments will consider additional campaign funding options.