Most recycling programs have two categories of containers; bins to serve public areas and behind-the-scenes storage containers. Features of your location and its users, the kinds of waste produced and trash crew activities come into play when making the right choices for your setting.
Bins for the Public
- Step 1 -- Decide what to collect in public areas
- Notice what people discard and where. Watch for metal cans, glass and plastic bottles, paper and cardboard -- materials subject to Wisconsin 's recycling law. In most settings, visitors have cans and bottles to discard. Some locations have waste paper.
- Cleaning crews may be able to tell you a lot about this. Ask them to look for patterns and fill you in.
- Collect the recyclables that people have to discard at the site .
- Example: if the public can't bring glass bottles to the venue, there's no need to for glass recycling outside of the kitchen.
- Take the simplest route . If the hauler accepts cans and bottles mixed together, collect them that way. The same goes for office paper and newspaper.
- Haulers might refer to mixed-together cans and bottles as “commingled containers.” “Mixed paper” means paper that is not sorted by type. Your visitors will look for the place to put the one item they have in their hand, so use the words “cans and bottles,” “paper and newspapers – all colors,” “aluminum cans only” and so on for signs and instructions.
- Step 2 -- Choose successful containers
- Pick a kind that's easy to spot and clearly different-looking from trash receptacles.
- This is most important for venues that get new visitors all the time. A site used by the same people day after day might have success with similar looking bins – with lots of promotion and frequent reminders.
- Choose bins that can easily be placed next to trash receptacles so people can see and reach either bin from many directions of approach.
- Look for features that prevent contamination, like round openings for bottles and cans or slots for paper.
- A bin with a flexible rubber covering over the opening makes it easy for a rigid bottle to be dropped in but a person would have to push the material with their hand to place a napkin or leftover food inside – not so attractive for those reluctant to touch the last person's cast-offs!
- Pick containers that are clearly marked with easy instructions or that have room for signs or labels to be added later in visible spots.
- As long as recycling bins can be recognized from a distance, the signs about what belongs inside can be smaller, for people who are within reach preparing to use the bin.
- Make sure the containers can be emptied easily and have features for smooth operations by the crew or staff.
- Adding a well-planned recycling program should not add extra work for crew members, as every recycling bin emptied means one less trash barrel filled. Get crew member input to make sure the choice will suit their system of maintaining the site.
- Consider features that discourage misuse such as theft or standing on bins. Anticipate what your crowd is likely or unlikely to do. Give priority to safety.
- If there aren't enough tables in popular locations, groups of friends use flat-topped recycling bins for tables to hold drinks, hiding bins from view and making it difficult for people to place materials in the openings.
- Some very eye-catching designs or bins with collectible logos are attractive targets of theft, despite the unwieldy job of carrying them away among crowds of onlookers. Some venues have few problems with this while others secure the bins with cables or choose bins that, while distinct from trash barrels, look uninteresting.
- A bin with a sloped or cone-shaped top prevents its use as a climbing platform for those who want a better view of the activities. Some crowds pose no worries about this, others do.
- Think about liner bags . Clear liners help cleaning crews spot contamination and allow them to pull trash and recycling bags in one round and then easily sort the bags at the loading area. However, clear liners may be costly or unavailable in the size you need. Find out before finalizing your choice of bins.
- Hauling companies may offer a better deal for unbagged cans and bottles; this adds a task for the crew members. At the same time, haulers may prefer paper in bags to prevent material from blowing away. Find out what your hauler wants – and what it can tolerate, and for what price.
- Strong bags are needed for heavy materials like glass. If plastic bottles comprise most of the bags' contents, then lighter, less expensive liners work well.
- A fleet of wheeled carts that are emptied with a truck eliminate the need for both liners and behind-the-scenes storage. This requires regular times when crowds are away for the truck to come (possibly subject to driver overtime!) and pavement rated for the truck – OR carts can be rolled to a parked truck in an out-of-the-way place for emptying.
- Factor in the ease of storage if the site is not continuously used for public activities.
- Bins stored intact take up the most space but are ready to use at a moment's notice. Some bins disassemble with or without tools and some simply fold for quick, compact storage.
- Weigh the costs – and count durability as a means of controlling future costs.
- Purchasing bins makes starting a recycling program more expensive than keeping an existing program going. Maybe vendors that serve drinks in recyclable containers can contribute in exchange for public words of thanks or their logo on recycling bins.
- Estimate the savings you'll achieve in avoided trash handling and disposal costs to make the case for the expenditure.
- Look at samples and try a small scale pilot program if timing allows. It is ideal to learn what works best at your site before making the full investment in bins.
- Collect and compare information about people's participation in recycling, trash contamination and the cleaning crew's impressions when conducting a pilot program.
- Step 3 -- Use Bins Successfully
- ALWAYS place a trash receptacle next to a recycling bin . A recycling bin away from a trash container will receive trash contamination.
- The containers should be so close together that people can reach both without moving their feet.
- Keep recycling bins away from spots that receive too much contamination ; locations where people have only trash, not recyclables, to discard.
- If a vendor is doing taste-testing in non-recyclable sample cups, move recycling bins away.
- Corn on the cob triggers a strange behavior – people tend to put corn cobs in recycling bins. Move recycling bins away from sweet corn stands.
- Put big “Recycle Here” signs on the bins that can be seen from a distance. Put quick instructions for what to put inside on the bins near the bins' openings, to be read from a few feet away.
- Use signs to tell people what you want. If the recycling hauler doesn't like bottle caps, write, “No lids.” If you hope to avoid a sticky mess, write, “No Liquids.”
- Keep signs brief, i.e., “Cans and bottles” rather than “Recycle aluminum, steel, glass and plastic only here.”
- Keep up with trash emptying . If the trash is overflowing, people are more likely to put trash in the recycling bin.
- If the trash fills faster than crew members can empty it, bring more trash containers.
- Monitor how it's working and make refinements.
- The best of plans can be derailed if no one pays close attention. Like the time when a sound booth attendant built a barrier out of recycling bins he removed from their carefully planned places. Or, when the brewery that promised bottles shows up with a tapper truck, recycling bins near the bar become more useful elsewhere.
- Put someone in charge of monitoring recycling and fixing problems as they arise – and not someone who already has a zillion other responsibilities. Small recycling problems become big problems if they are allowed to persist while times are busy.
- Authorize others to trouble-shoot . Grounds crew members, especially, are likely to see problems first and can be informed of how to solve them.
- Have a crew training session that includes the problem-solving tips located in the “Strategies for Involving Cleaning Crews” section of this guide.
- If new cleaning crew members take over later shifts, don't neglect to train them too.
- Be open to suggestions from crew members and others. During a busy event, you don't have time to be wrong about what works; plus, things change and the recycling approach may need to adapt to the crowd's behaviors and the vendors' products.
- A volunteer or fan appointed to monitor recycling and fix problems can be a great help.
- Anticipate some wear and tear , as with all fixtures and equipment.
- Budget for occasional equipment replacement and repairs.
Here's the contents of a recycling bin placed next to a trash can: (just one white cup out of place)
And the contents of a recycling bin out of reach of trash cans: (note food waste, plate, napkins…)
Bins Behind the Scenes
- Step 1 – Get the options from your hauler
- Learn the sizes of roll-off boxes and other containers offered . Find out which materials should be stored in separate containers.
- Most haulers prefer separate boxes for cardboard, paper, and mixed containers (bottles and cans).
- The size and kind of box may affect the frequency of pick-ups needed.
- Make cost comparisons .
- Balance your need for space with the hauling company's fee structures.
- Beware of extra charges if pick-ups are needed on weekends or at night. Two boxes with Monday pickup may cost less than one box that needs emptying mid-weekend.
- Step 2 – Assess your needs
- Consider your space . A loading area with room for a truck to maneuver is needed around the container. Smaller dumpsters require more frequent pick-ups but consume less space.
- The storage containers should be away from crowds.
- Secure the area with high fences or lock the containers if there are concerns about scavengers (scavengers are people who take recyclables to trade for cash at a scrap yard). Aluminum cans are the usual target. Sites that get revenue for recyclables can lose money to scavengers. If revenue is not an issue, there may be concerns about scavengers making a mess or endangering themselves. In many settings, scavengers remove material without causing problems.
- Find out if you'll need recycling data.
- Roll-off boxes are weighed at every pick-up. Bins emptied by a truck, like dumpsters, are not weighed as the truck combines materials from many stops on a route.
- Step 1 – Pinpoint recyclables in your waste stream that are not discarded by the public
- Identify the things vendors discard at your site. Note where they are discarded.
- Retailer vendors contribute cardboard boxes.
- Food vendors have large cans and jars as well as cardboard boxes.
- Some materials that are not subject to Wisconsin 's recycling law need not be landfilled. Pallets, wooden crates, metal racks used in shipping, and compostable food waste are examples.
- Take inventory of landscaping waste, discarded signs and decorations, exhibitor trash, recyclables in employee and volunteer areas and elsewhere.
- You may find opportunities to reduce waste at the source by choosing more durable or reusable supplies or eliminating some materials from use.
- Note that lawn clippings and yard waste are banned from Wisconsin landfills.
- Animal exhibits require proper disposal of bedding and waste.
- Consider the trash generated within your organization, including excess promotional materials sent elsewhere.
- Step 2 – Choose containers that meet the facility's needs
- Consider space and convenience for kitchen area recycling .
- Kitchen staff can place jars and cans in recycling bins the public uses for cans and bottles; recycling haulers usually have no objections to this. This is convenient for food vendors that are short on space behind the counter. In other settings, a bin of their own is appreciated.
- Bulk food containers fill recycling bins quickly – mostly with air! Flattening them first saves space which helps cleaning crews keep up with emptying the bins and cuts hauling costs.
- Where heavy glass accumulates, a wheeled container eases the job for clean-up crews.
- Direct vendors to flatten cardboard and stack it out of the way or take it to the loading area.
- If there's a cardboard baler, let vendors know how you expect them to use it.
- If it is placed in a roll-off box, strongly encourage all who handle cardboard to flatten the boxes to save space, reduce pick-up frequency, and save money.
- Take cardboard directly to the baler or storage container. Do without bags or the unwieldy job of stuffing boxes into small collection bins. Cardboard accumulates where supplies are unpacked, so it is easy to keep separate from other trash.
- Look for ways to eliminate waste by reducing it at the source .
- Use durable, reusable signs and decorations to reduce waste and save money. Arrows on separate pieces make directional signs more versatile. Choose signs that can be revised to update prices and schedules. Then store them where they won't deteriorate and where they'll be readily found and used again.
- There are other ways to create less waste in the first place -- make landscaping choices that create less waste. Low maintenance ground cover plants prevent waste and save time too. Refine your printing orders, particularly for time-sensitive materials. Ask those who help you distribute flyers to count leftovers, then adjust your next order. Note locations where a poster could attract more attention than a stack of flyers.
- Food waste composting entails its own set of containers serving the kitchen, the public and the loading area. Learn more about that in the “Case Study” section of this guide. There are waste haulers that operate compost facilities and on-site methods of composting food waste.
- Food waste separation in kitchen areas can work smoothly when workers have time to form correct habits.
- Some events choose biodegradable plates and utensils and engage the public in separating compostable waste. Combined with recycling, this can achieve a very high waste diversion rate.