Legislating Green? - Our Daily Green

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Legislating Green?

image courtesy of Eco Friendly Emporium
This week, the City of Cleveland, Ohio proposed legislation to fine non-recyclers $100.00 by the City of Cleveland. In essence, recycling behavior would be tracked via computer chips in recycling bins and residents who weren't recycling would be subject to trash inspections and fined if they were found not recycling.

This news filled Our Daily Green with mixed feelings. As a strong supporter of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, anything that keeps more trash out of landfills sounds like a good idea. However, if the price is to have Big Brother rifling through trash cans and inspecting garbage, suddenly, it feels more invasive than encouraging. It would seem the municipality could find a better way to encourage recycling.

It would seem that recycling should be second nature to most folks by now, but the reality is, up to 25% of people do not recycle. The most common reasons given are that they don't have the time or do not trust that the items they separate are really recycled, so it is not worth the trouble.

In order to change such perceptions, the consumer needs to feel that items are recycled and that it is worth their time. RecycleBank is a company working to do just that. We've written about their company previously. This innovative trash collection company has partnered with corporate sponsors to provide homes with special recycle bins and the customer accrues rewards for recycled trash. RecycleBank weighs the separated trash and sends the customer coupons or rewards based on the amount recycled. RecycleBank makes profits by saving municipalities landfill fees.

Much like the proposed bins in the City of Cleveland, the trash is still being tracked. However, rather than punishments for noncompliance, the customer receives a reward for compliance. Rather than the threat of a $100 fine, the homeowner has the potential to earn points good for approximately $20/monthly in assorted discounts and rewards.

Positive reinforcement of desired behavior is much more effective than negative. Our Daily Green would like to see the City of Cleveland reconsider their costly and offensive plan and study alternatives. Turning a win/lose proposition into a win/win is the kind of green Our Daily Green gets excited about!


Marti Wukelic said...

I like your suggestion of a reward or point system a lot. Since I fall into the category of people who don't trust whether or not the items are really being recycled, I don't have a huge incentive for going through the rigmarole needed for recycling cardboard, paper, etc. During the past few months I've mildly attempted to find out where our recyclables go after collection and still don't really know. I find I have more aloha for not using disposable items in the first place (grocery bags, water bottles) than going thru the post use drill. Anyway, my point was going to be that the reward idea could be an incentive for people like me, at least until we can see the entire cycle. Semi tangent: Many years ago a recycling guru told us that to make a recycling program effective, you have to start with a useful, affordable end product and work backwards. That comment comes back to me often. Harder than it sounds, btw. Good blog!

FreshGreenKim said...

Marti, thank you for your honest input! I'm not interested in preaching to the choir, but rather finding a way to resonate with everyone else. I admit, there are times I've also "blindly recycled" unconvinced that my separated trash went anywhere differently than my true garbage...

I think a program like RecycleBank's is true testimony for the "nonbeliever" of the church of ecofriendly living. :) Way more than fining those who don't attend. Can you imagine?

Paul Rados said...

In the article I read in the Plain Dealer earlier this week (sorry I don't remember the day since I read 3 days worth of newspapers yesterday) it stated the system would work along the lines of a "garbage inspector" visiting if the recycle barrel is not put out for collection in a given period of time. When the inspector does come out and finds more than I believe 20% materials (glass, cardboard, cans) then a fine will be issued. This will be after contact attempts are made.

I was a little taken aback when I first heard about the program with said fines, but after finding out that in order to be fined you would basically need to consciously not participate I am a little more understanding of this community focused mandated recycling.

FreshGreenKim said...

Paul, thank you and welcome to Our Daily Green. I think my biggest concern is that this feels like an ill-thought out plan. Does the city really have the resources to inspect trash, however frequently or not it would be?

I am so strongly for encouraging more folks to recycle (I couldn't believe that 25% just do not!), but there has to be a better way... we'll see.