Case Study: Maxwell Street Days Flea Market
Strategies – Boy Scout Troop #15 has been handling the trash clean-up and cardboard recycling for this event as a fundraiser for a number of years. A well-established system was already in place for trash and cardboard collection with 35-40 scouts doing evening post-event collections. Several vehicles pulling trailers and carrying crew members are used to drive around the grounds and do pick-ups from the trash containers, to be placed in designated trash dumpsters. Cardboard is flattened by vendors, set next to trash barrels, and collected by scout crews for placement in a separate recycling roll-off. Scouts provide plastic bags to each vendor for their trash. Vendors are able to access the cardboard roll-off.
Additionally, with bottle and can recycling, 40 ClearStream ® recycling bins are picked up and loaded by several crew volunteers at the county storage shed with the assistance of two county recycling staff members. Crew and recycling staff set up recycling bins in the park the day before the event. Recycling staff furnished and applied signage to the dumpsters at the first event to reduce contamination. John’s Disposal was encouraged to provide signage for the rest of the events. A recycling staff person attended the event the first Saturday afternoon to observe the recycling and trash, and switch out any bags that were full. The food service area was set up with extra recycling bins, since that area was expected to generate more recyclables. Also, when crew members aren’t available to switch out bags on Saturdays at other events, more containers are available where they are needed the most. Since some drinks are served in cups at this area, extra signs stating: “No Cups” are applied to recycling bins in that location. Sunday afternoon, scout crews arrive an hour before closing to start facilitating the clean-up. Recycling bins are taken down and loaded on one of the crew pick-up trucks. The bins are returned Monday morning to the county storage shed by crew volunteers.
Who's Involved - The Mukwonago American Legion Post 375 is the event sponsor, Mukwonago Boy Scout Troop #15 is the trash/recycling crew, the Village of Mukwonago provides & distributes trash containers in the park, the Local Kiwanis Club is the food and beverage vendor, John’s Disposal-Whitewater is the hauler, Waukesha County Recycling Office provided recycling bins and assistance and Saint Vincent de Paul is the charitable organization willing to take usable items.
How it Operates – Communication is the key at all levels from start to finish.
Planning meeting/ ongoing communications
Since a variety of groups are responsible for these events, initial planning and discussion takes place at a joint meeting. After the first event, representatives of each group involved with the trash/ recycling hold a conference call to compare notes and offer suggestions for improvement. E-mails between these same participants are used for all other communications.
Notices are distributed at the vendor check-in point. They are provided by the Waukesha County recycling office as half-sheets (later down-sized to quarter-sheets to cut cost and waste). Notices explain the new recycling program and specify the vendor’s responsibilities.
Working with the Hauler
Vendor contamination led to piloting limited access to dumpsters, taping off areas for collection crews only. The hauler is encouraged to provide increased signage for roll-offs and other containers. The need for large dumpsters vs. safe and easy access for crews created some trade-offs/changes in size, location, and number of dumpsters as the summer progressed.
Crew leaders (scoutmasters) were heavily involved in the original planning sessions. Crew leaders provided instruction to crew members, and offered feedback after events on problems/changes needed for collections procedures. Crew members were involved with the transportation, set-up and take-down of recycling bins throughout the grounds, along with the trash/ recycling collection.
Many unsold, reusable items were thrown in the trash dumpsters after the first event. A plan was formulated to deal with the items. County recycling staff contacted a number of charitable institutions to see if they would be interested in these items. Only one group was interested. The St. Vincent de Paul Society scheduled a pick-up the day after the final event if enough usable items were generated and set aside for collection. In the past, the most items generated were at the final event. The manager was “on call” for pick-up of any special items that might be generated for the 2nd and 3rd events.
Benefits - Partnering to accomplish recycling is beneficial, each group has an understanding of the issues affecting those groups involved. Communicating between each event provides feedback and the ability to correct problems when possible. Throughout the season the event diverted 15-20% of waste. Representatives of the hauling company and boy scout troop commented favorably about the ClearStream bins, noting their ease of use and low contamination.
Challenges – Challenges entailed logistics and communication
Large Single Stream Dumpster Accessibility for Crews
While the concept of having one big recycling dumpster (in this case, a 30-yard roll-off) to save costs has merit, the logistics of crewmembers (particularly if not adults) being able to safely access a tall-sided dumpster—especially when bottles & cans are expected to be de-bagged—raises concerns about liability and feasibility. The weight of the door was unacceptable for safe access by youth, as was using a stepladder to throw items in the roll-off. While cardboard could be thrown in by standing on the trailer, trying to empty bags over the top was not feasible. Smaller covered 4-yard dumpsters were brought in to ease access problems and emptying of bags, but also added to the cost. When smaller dumpsters were filled, crews left bags of recyclables sitting outside the dumpsters, leaving them susceptible to aluminum scavenging.
Debagging bottles & cans
Emptying bags with sticky liquid can pose problems for any crew. Finding a hauler willing to take commingled in bags would be the ideal scenario.
Vendor contamination in dumpsters
While the smaller dumpsters had standard signage (one per container), the recycling roll-offs and trash dumpsters were not adequately marked. Recycling staff put signs on the 30-yard recycling roll-off and one smaller dumpster in the food area for the first event as an example, and to encourage the hauler to provide signage for future events. Signage was inadequate, which led to much contamination by vendors using the dumpsters themselves, rather than the crews. Although contamination will often happen regardless of signs, adequate signage does make a difference. Caution tape was then used around dumpsters at the 3rd event to cut down on vendor contamination, but was not used at the 4th event. The tape was not accompanied by adequate signage. Vendor apathy and lack of awareness continues to be a problem. Vendor notices and verbal reminders will continue to be helpful in changing behavior.
Vendor notices were dropped off for distribution at check-in, but there was no specific contact person who was able to confirm their distribution after the first event. Assigning a specific Legion member would be helpful to assure distribution of vendor notices and to enforce the recycling message at check-in. Volunteers were tapped from a pool of local high school students to assist recycling a recycling staff person on the first Saturday to monitor the recycling, switch out bags and provide reminders to vendors. Volunteers did not show up to fulfill their role, so a recycling staff person switched out bags as needed.
There was scavenging of the aluminum cans that went into trash barrels. This did not create a problem since the numbers were extremely low; however, on two occasions when the commingled dumpsters were full, crews left the collected bags sitting outside the dumpster on the ground. These were scavenged later in the evening. The 4th event also generated more bags than could be fit in the commingled containers. Rather than leave the excess bags for scavenging, the scout crews took the bags to be recycled elsewhere. Both situations affected John’s final collection totals.
Signs must be big, numerous, and specific. Standard hauler stickers don’t come close to being effective. Even trash dumpsters must have signs that say: “Trash Only: No Recyclables”. There should be no guesswork when someone approaches a dumpster or roll-off. Signs should be taped to the covers of dumpsters when possible. If areas are taped off to limit access, those areas need to have signs indicating the restriction. Tape alone isn’t effective.
Weekend (Sunday) pick-ups — While this engages union/overtime issues, the overnight access to unrestricted dumpster sites can leave collections open to scavenging of valuable recyclables. There are other approaches to deal with this matter, but some festival organizers have expressed similar concerns. It did affect the bottom line for this event’s trash/recycling collections.
Accepting commingled bottles & cans in bags — Coordinating with the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) to allow specific pre-scheduled event bags to be opened at the facility could be a useful approach, requiring minimal effort for a short amount of employee time.
A firm decision should be made ahead of time about whether or not vendors should have access to any dumpsters/roll-offs. It would probably be best to have a single restricted dumpster site for access by crewmembers only, set apart from the vendor area. Since there was an over-abundance of unmarked barrels available for trash, a number of them could be labeled and placed around the grounds for those items vendors were placing in cardboard boxes for disposal—many of them reusable. Vendors are already provided with trash bags for unusable trash. Vendors would have to be educated about the change with additional information on the notices, and with verbal reminders.
Decisions on container size should be based on volumes collected at last year’s events, to be re-examined and reviewed for changes after the first event of the season. The hauler, crew leaders, and recycling staff (when involved) should have a specific on-site meeting to discuss placement and container size.
Legion members should assign a person at check-in to hand out the vendor notices and provide a verbal reminder. That person’s name should be provided as a contact for whoever is supplying the vendor notices. The Legion should consider supplying future vendor notices. Perhaps vendors should be encouraged to bring box cutters to break down their cardboard.
The community should invest in recycling bins for park and other community events. Having several permanent park recycling bins available, along with temporary bins, would enable all events to recycle, and avoid the extra effort needed to drive to the county storage facility for pick-up and drop-off of bins on loan.
Participants had the following advice:
Brent Flikkema, John’s Disposal: “I believe that each event should have a recycling plan, signage and a special location that they can control in order to place the cardboard and mixed recycling in the correct containers. This should stay with the Event Organizers. The hauler should be told what containers to provide or what material will need to be picked up at the end of the event…leaving it up to the general public to use the right container causes problems. My [dumpsters] are not able to be made fool-proof unless the entire location is separated from the general public.”
John Bechthold, Troop 15 Committee Chairman: “The vendors need to break their boxes down and NOT use the cardboard boxes to put garbage in. We supply [trash] bags for that purpose. We need to have very big signs on the dumpster that say: ‘Cardboard Only—Must Be Flattened’. If we can’t get the vendors to break down the boxes and not put trash in the boxes, we will not get the full benefit of the recycling effort.”