The City of Greensboro’s recycling contamination rate is at an all-time high. The national average for non-recyclables in the recycling is 5-10% and Greensboro has a 22% contamination rate according to our Recycling Center. Ongoing recycling education efforts have not improved the situation, and the City’s Waste Reduction team only has one Solid Waste Code Enforcement Officer who is unable to monitor all 90,000+ service units in a given collection cycle. So in December 2017, staff developed a new tracking education protocol and cart removal mechanism for repeat contaminators.
Our recycling truck drivers and solid waste inspector use tablets and the GIS-based Mobile 311 software service (M311) to create tags for contaminated containers.
Recycling drivers have tablet mounts in their trucks and cameras over their hoppers. As recyclables fall from the carts into the truck, they watch for things like plastic bags, hoses, electronics, etc, and use their sense of smell to determine if smelly food or garbage is in the recycling. The virtual tag contains information that shows the date, time, location, and what type of contaminants were in the recycling. Recycling drivers do not get out of their vehicle to put stickers on recycling carts.
The recycling inspector also uses a tablet as he drives around to audit carts before they are emptied. Since he is one person for 90,000+ carts, we have added recycling inspections to the duties of additional employees to increase inspections coverage. We are currently working to include college and adult volunteers in the increased inspections facet of the #RecycleRight campaign. Interested in volunteering? Contact us.
The #RecycleRight program was developed to help educate and enforce recycling guidelines. It’s important that potentially dangerous garbage items don’t end up in the recycling. Each tag is tracked as a unique work item in the M311 system (see image below).
After 6 months, a tag automatically rolls off the address to allow inconsistent, infrequent contaminators to learn from the education notices and fix mistakes without unnecessarily removing their recycling cart.
A recycling cart may receive a sticker on their cart and/or a contamination notice postcard in the mail. Not all homes that get a postcard will have had a sticker on their cart because recycling drivers do not exit their vehicles to put stickers on carts.
Thank you for Recycling Right: The resident had all recyclables in their cart or just a minor issue. Residents are not being virtually tagged to receive a contamination notice postcard.
Oops! Recycling Contamination Alert: There was contamination in the recycling. The cart will still be serviced that day. The resident will receive a contamination notice postcard.
Recycling Quality Control: there was a lot of contamination in the recycling container. The recycling cart was intentionally skipped for collection that day to allow the resident to correct the mistake. The resident will receive a contamination notice postcard.
The recycling cart potentially contained:
a. Few to no recyclables
b. Dangerous items that could harm employees that hand sort recycling
b. Items that will damage equipment at the recycling center
c. Dirty items that decrease the value of other recyclables
Contamination Notice Postcards:
Sent by mail and indicates the date, contamination found, and 1st/2nd/3rd notice. Sticker labels are used to print different contaminants (i.e. construction waste, food/plates, clothing/textiles) and go over the various types of contamination. Plastic bags are by far the top contaminant, so that is why it is printed on the card.
If recycling is tagged for contamination, 4 times in a 6-month period, the cart is removed for continued violations of our recycling guidelines. After 6 months, a tag automatically rolls off the address to allow inconsistent, infrequent contaminators to learn from the education notices and fix mistakes without having their recycling cart removed.
Example Contamination Notice Postcards:
We know that recycling can sometimes be confusing, so here are a few ideas to make your life easier and greener!
- Sign up for reminders. The GSO Collects App is a great way to never forget recycling day. If you have lots of recycling, it can be hard to go 2 weeks between pickups. We won't be adding additional pickup days anytime soon, but you can make sure to never miss a collection with GSO Collects. Sign up for emails, texts, tweets, and phone calls on the web-based tool.
- What goes where? What you're holding in your hand isn't always on our recycling guide. Use the Waste Wizard search feature in the GSO Collects app, or web-based tool to search virtually any item imaginable to find out how to properly dispose of it.
- Label your recycling cart. Do the kids or your significant other get the brown and green cans mixed up? Try labeling it. It makes for a great personal touch too.
- Follow us on Nextdoor, Facebook, or Twitter. We post a weekly blog, "Ever Wonder Wednesday" about all the common, confusing, and strange questions we get about recycling and waste reduction. We'll also answer any questions you have that you cannot find in our GSO Collects tool.