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Three steps to recycling success

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The city of San Diego's recycling ordinance will go into effect on Feb. 11. Are you ready to recycle? It's easier than you think if you use expertise from a trusted community partner like Waste Management of San Diego. Because Waste Management employees understand the importance of recycling, they have taken on the challenge to increase their recycling efforts in our local offices. Just last month, the staff at our El Cajon office facility was able to use recycling methods that resulted in a diversion rate of more than 70 percent. The same three-step method can easily be translated into success for you.

"Our employees took the information we gave them and really ran with it," said Carl Scherbaum, district manager for Waste Management of San Diego. "Many have said how easy it was once they had the knowledge base and resources to increase their recycling efforts."

Step one: recycling education

In all of our years in the waste and recycling business, we've found that many times education is the key to a successful recycling program. Teaching your employees or residents the basics about what is and isn't recyclable can truly skyrocket participation and help you reach diversion goals.

"So much more than bottles and cans can be recycled in a commingled recycling container," Scherbaum said. "Once your staff or residents have a simple list of what can and can't be recycled, it takes the effort out of recycling and turns it into an automatic habit to toss mixed papers, glass, tin cans and so much more into the recycling bin."

In the city of San Diego, the following materials should be placed in the recycling bin:

¥ Mixed papers: Newspaper, junk mail, white and colored office paper, wrapping, art and craft paper, telephone books, magazines, paper bags, envelopes (including those with windows), shredded paper (in a closed paper bag or box), note cards, Post-it notes.

¥ Cardboard: Cereal boxes (liners removed), frozen food boxes, shoe and detergent boxes, paper and toilet rolls, and corrugated boxes (flattened).

¥ Cans (rinsed if possible): Soda, juice, soup, vegetable and pet food cans, pie tins and wire hangers.

¥ Glass (rinsed if possible): Soda bottles, wine bottles, beer bottles and food jars.

¥ Plastic Bottles and Containers (CRV #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6 and #7): Soda, juice, detergent, bleach, shampoo, lotion, mouthwash, dishwashing containers, milk jugs, tubs for margarine and yogurt.

Non-recyclable materials should be thrown away in your regular trash container and include:

¥ Contaminated paper: Juice boxes, coated milk cartons, pizza boxes, soiled papers or bags with oil and food waste, paper cups, paper towels, wax paper and unclean food boxes.

¥ Broken glass: Window glass, mirrors, auto glass, etc.

¥ Other plastic materials: Laundry baskets, garden hoses, plastic wrap and packaging materials.

¥ Miscellaneous materials: cloth, carpet and padding, diapers, dryer lint, food waste, lawn furniture and clocks.

Items categorized as household hazardous waste (HHW) should not be placed in either the recycle or trash bin, but instead should be disposed of separately. For more information on HHW disposal, call 1-866-WMRECYCLE or visit www.wastemanagementsd.com/HHW.asp.

Step two: recycling containers

Education is a major component of a successful recycling program, but it's only part of the winning strategy. Providing recycling containers in strategic locations can mean the difference between success and failure.

"You have to make recycling convenient by placing containers in high traffic areas and in individual offices and cubicles," said Scherbaum. "At our facility we purchased special recycling containers for the desks that have a tiny trash bin and a large recycling bin ... most of what we generate in an office is recyclable and this constantly reinforced our recycling education."

For optimum participation, place recycling containers in the following areas:

For businesses:

¥ Individual offices/cubicles

¥ Break rooms

¥ Copy/printer rooms

¥ At entrances and exits

¥ Next to mail bins

¥ Next to all trash containers

¥ In conference rooms

For multi-family complexes:

¥ Poolside

¥ Next to your dumpsters

¥ Next to mailboxes

¥ In picnic areas

¥ In your community center

¥ In your media center

Step three: recycling signage and reminders

Though steps one and two are vital for recycling, there's still one more step that will ensure recycling success ... Signage and reminders.

"It's vital to label recycle bins clearly and put up posters, flyers and signs that remind people about what's recyclable and why it's so important to recycle," Scherbaum said. "We have signs throughout our facilities to reinforce our message help us meet and exceed our recycling goals."

When creating posters, signs and flyers for recycling, remember to:

¥ Place them next to all recycle containers

¥ Make them colorful

¥ Have both English and Spanish language signage

¥ Label each recycling container clearly so it's not confused with trash

Other ideas for employee reminders include:

¥ Recycling contests

¥ Monthly or weekly e-mail blasts

¥ Reminders about what is and isn't recyclable at staff/tenant meetings


Recycling is not only important to protect our environment and comply with the San Diego Recycling Ordinance, it's also easy -- just follow Waste Management's three steps to recycling success.

Perez is communications manager for Waste Management of San Diego.

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