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Commercial Recycling Education and Outreach Activities – Focus on Alameda County Waste Management Authority

Case Story

Community: County of Alameda, 14 cities, and 2 special districts

Population: 1,575,000 (includes both county and cities)

Summary

The Alameda County Waste Management Authority/Source Reduction and Reduction Board, also known as StopWaste.Org, is a Joint Powers Authority in Alameda County.1 Its members include the county, the fourteen cities in the county and two special districts that provide solid waste and recycling services. Its education activities to encourage businesses to recycle include technical assistance for waste prevention and recycling, targeted outreach and assistance to large businesses, online resources and assistance for smaller businesses, grants to businesses, and a high profile recognition program for businesses that recycle.

Highlights

  • StopWaste.Org substantially supplements the amount of commercial recycling and organics outreach activities that its member agencies do. StopWaste.Org focuses on the larger generators who generate 70 percent of the county’s commercial waste stream. Within its member agencies, the cost to recycle is lower than the cost of disposal, providing a financial incentive to businesses.
  • The StopWaste Business Partnership works with a consulting firm to provide technical assistance to businesses, emphasizing that they can often help the businesses save money on their trash bill. A key message is “We are here to help businesses save money and increase efficiency.”
  • The StopWaste Business Partnership offers businesses producing 15 cubic yards or more of waste and recyclable materials a week technical assistance through a site visit and waste assessment. It also offers other services, such as loans and grants, to other business.
  • The StopWaste Business Partnership places a high value on recognition and hosts an annual recognition event, as well as a print and web-based media campaign to recognize businesses and their employees who recycle.

Lessons Learned

  • The more you speak the language of business, the more comfortable business decision-makers will be when considering devoting their time to work with agency staff. It is better to talk about the benefits to the business (such as saving money, or increasing the business’s competitive advantage), rather than just a description of the service offered (such as “recycling technical assistance” or “waste reduction.”).
  • Gentle persistence is critical. If at first a company does not respond to efforts to engage with them, keep them on your target list and touch base every 3-6 months, especially if you know they are a large generator.
  • Having a good relationship with the commercial haulers/recyclers is key. It is important to specify what kind of education to the commercial community is expected from the haulers.

Where to Go for More Info

The Rest of the Story…

The Alameda County Waste Management Authority is a public agency formed in 1976 by a Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement among the County of Alameda, the fourteen cities within the county, and the two sanitary districts that provide refuse and recycling collection services.2 Many refer to the Authority by its popular name, StopWaste.Org.

StopWaste.Org’s business assistance activities focus on education, outreach, and technical assistance. The permitting and franchising of solid waste haulers is handled directly by the individual cities and the two special districts. In most Alameda county jurisdictions, the cost to recycle is lower than the cost of disposal, thus providing a financial incentive to businesses to recycle.

Services Offered to Save Money

Close collaboration with recycling coordinators in each member agency and with the haulers help identify large generators for follow-up assistance by the StopWaste Business Partnership team. Partnership staff, along with a small team of consultants, identify the largest business and institutional generators of waste and work with them to provide technical and financial assistance. In some cases, making the initial contact and finding the right person in a business is a challenge. However, once the initial connection is made, the education effort focuses on increasing efficiency and saving money for the business. Participating businesses sign a letter of understanding, which acts as a commitment, or pledge, to work with StopWaste.Org to implement waste reduction recommendations.

For businesses that generate more than 15 cubic yards of waste a week, such as manufacturing facilities, hospitals, large schools, or commercial buildings, StopWaste.Org offers a site visit. The outcome of these on-site waste assessments is a report that recommends waste reduction opportunities, starting with easy-to-implement strategies (so called “low-hanging fruit”) and evolving into more complex strategies for reducing waste at the source. The StopWaste Business Partnership team also offers support finding markets and vendors for less common recyclable materials. Gentle persistence is used to keep the relationship alive over time.

Besides technical assistance, StopWaste.Org offers financial assistance to businesses of all sizes to help them increase recycling. This includes mini-grants (up to $5,000) to get started or prepare education materials for employees, competitive waste prevention grants ($10,000 to $70,000), and low interest loans.

Resources and assistance for smaller businesses include eligibility to receive mini-grants, online waste audit guidance and eligibility to receive recognition through Alameda County’s green business program. All businesses can take advantage of StopWaste.Org’s robust library of online resources, how-to guides, and case studies covering various waste reduction practices.

Getting the Message Out

  • StopWaste.Org gets its message out to the business community through a variety of means, including:
  • An e-newsletter sent four times a year to about 1,500 businesses, reminding them of the services available.
  • A robust website that describes the services available, including financial resources.
  • Partnership with chambers of commerce in the county and individual cities, including green links on the chambers’ websites to StopWaste.Org and participation in chamber activities (including newsletters and roundtables).
  • Hosting a marketing ad campaign that allows businesses and their employees (such as facilities managers) to get recognition, such as in trade magazines, for their waste reduction and recycling efforts.
  • Developing a social media campaign.

Recognition Is Critical

StopWaste.Org places a high value on recognition and devotes time each year to hosting a recognition event. Each year, ten to thirteen businesses that have made great strides receive awards. The event is well attended by businesses, local elected officials and economic development groups. StopWaste.Org also supports the county’s Green Business certification program to recognize smaller businesses.

 

Compiled March 2011

This story was prepared in partnership with the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).


1StopWaste.Org promotes waste reduction and recycling through its Green Building, Bay Friendly Gardening and Landscaping programs, as well as by working with local school districts, and the StopWaste Business Partnership.

2The Alameda County Waste Management Authority is responsible for preparation of the Alameda County Integrated Waste Management Plan and Alameda County Hazardous Waste Management Plan. The Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board (Recycling Board) was created in 1990 by the voters of Alameda County through a ballot initiative. The eleven-member board includes six citizen experts appointed by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and five elected officials from the Alameda County Waste Management Authority.

The Authority manages a long-range program for development of solid waste facilities and offers a wide variety of other programs in the areas of source reduction and recycling, market development, technical assistance and public education. Funding is provided by per ton disposal and waste import mitigation fees. The Recycling Board is responsible for programs that promote source reduction, residential and commercial recycling, recycled product procurement and market development. Program funding is provided from a per ton disposal surcharge at the Altamont and Vasco Road landfills.

 

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