What is Cart Tagging?

Day 268 – Cart tagging involves a group of people that go out and inspect recycle bins. They take note of any contamination that is found in the recycling bins. That information then helps pinpoint where outreach efforts are needed. Those using the cart tagging process have found that having a conversation with residents about what should and should not go into the recycle bins has helped decrease the amount of contaminates and increased the amount of material that can be recycled successfully.

In an article in Resource Recycling, Collin Staub writes about a campaign that started in Centerville, Ohio. The city on Aug. 11 announced the effort, explaining that the project is “mobilizing specially trained staff and volunteers to conduct curbside cart observations. Cart inspectors will flip lids in several neighborhoods and will deploy “oops” tags on contaminated carts. The tags will include “specific feedback designed to reduce contamination,” the city wrote, and those carts will not be emptied for that week.

Cart tagging programs are happening around the country. Those running these programs realize that not every town can employ cart inspectors. Ron Jones, a senior planner for the city of Olympia, Washington, offers another option for getting feedback on cart quality. “The drivers are there every week picking up recycling,” he said. “They know customers, they get to kind of understand who is contaminating really badly versus not so bad, who is doing well.” Olympia, which uses municipal crews for collection, gives drivers a tablet and directs them to note which households set out highly contaminated carts. Drivers can identify the type of contamination through the system as well. Afterward, the city’s recycling department downloads the data and uses it to tailor outreach materials.

In Regina, Saskatchewan they are using a new automated technology to help decrease decontamination. The technology uses a camera installed on the recycling collection truck. The camera takes an image of the cart contents as they are emptied, and a software program visually identifies contaminants. An “oops” mailer is delivered to households with high contamination levels, indicating the contaminants and providing tips for proper recycling.

Even though these programs have had overall success, they have faced some residents that don’t comply or become unpleasant when explaining what needs to be done to have a successful program. It is unfortunate that something as simple as making sure you are placing recyclable items in your recycle cart has to create friction. Many of the programs will take away the recycle cart after a number of violations. In order to get it back a fee needs to be paid. Those cities currently landfill those recyclables while trying to educate residents about how to properly recycle.

It will take a group effort to make sure recyclable items are recycled. Residents, waste management companies and city government need to work together for a common goal, a healthier planet.

Tomorrow, protecting rivers.

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