Recycling's Helping Hand

Victorville, Calif., has found a way to step-up its recycling efforts while lending support to nonprofit organizations. The city's Business Community Recycling Program gives free recycling bins to area businesses, and then each business chooses a local nonprofit to pickup the collected materials once the bins are full. The nonprofits pickup the materials as often as necessary, normally two to three times per month. As their reward, the organizations get to keep the proceeds from the sale of the recyclable aluminum cans and plastic bottles.

According to Dana Armstrong, city solid waste manager, Victorville developed the program last winter to help decrease trash generated by local businesses and increase recycling. Armstrong says she borrowed the idea from San Bernardino, Calif., which has a similar program. Now, about a dozen local businesses participate. Depending on the amount of recyclables companies collect, the nonprofits can potentially earn several hundred dollars per year.

To help fund the program, the sanitation department is using part of a $20,000 grant from the California Department of Conservation, Sacramento. Part of the money goes toward creating placards that participating businesses can post in their windows to inform their customers about their recycling program involvement. The solid waste department also has promoted the program by advertising in the Chamber of Commerce newsletter, conducting onsite visits at businesses, sending out press releases to local media and sending letters directly to local companies.

Armstrong says interest in the program has been growing, as several nonprofits are actively seeking companies with which to partner. “What we've found recently that really seems to be working is when the nonprofits themselves directly appeal to the businesses,” she says. “Where we seem to be getting the most response is when a nonprofit has already had a relationship with a business.” Armstrong says the program has yet to have an impact on the city's overall recycling rate, which is approximately 45 percent. She expects participation to grow exponentially in the coming year.