Sustainability Corner – Recycling survey: Good, but improvement still needed

By William H. Flank

Member, Riderwood Recycling Committee

Members of the Recycling Committee recently conducted a survey to assess the degree of compliance with the actions required to make our Riderwood recycling efforts meet the requirements of the contractor handling our recycling collection. While the results show that residents are making strong efforts to support the recycling program, not all of them fully comply with what’s currently needed by our collection contractor. (The recycling market is in turmoil at present, but we’ll try to keep everyone posted on any needed changes.)

For the randomized survey, the blue collection containers in seven buildings were visually sampled on several dates to provide a total of 133 sets of observations of compliance with four selected criteria. These were whether or not:

• Dual stream separation was being practiced [paper and cardboard in blue bags; cans and plastic and glass in blue bins]

• Trash was present

• The materials were clean and dry

• Plastic bags or #6 plastic items were present.

The first of the above four parameters had the poorest results: 41 percent of observations were not separated into two streams, as is now required. In 22 percent of the observations, trash was present, but in only two percent was the material not clean and dry. We also looked for the undesired presence of plastic bags or #6 plastic (polystyrene) and found them in 19 percent of the observations.

For anyone interested in bragging rights, none of the seven buildings sampled was completely free of negatives, so the needed changes are community-wide. We all have to take steps to improve, so that our efforts can more meaningfully contribute to the success of the recycling program. If you know someone who doesn’t have a blue bag or a blue bin, ask them to call General Services at (301) 572-8355 so they can join the environmentally conscious bandwagon. And check out the posters in the Recycling/Cart Storage rooms for hints on how to further improve our recycling game. Our beleaguered planet will thank you.

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