In July 2020 the Authority (Mojave Desert & Mountain Recycling Authority) contracted with ReCREATE Waste Collaborative (ReCREATE) to conduct a pilot study with the goal of identifying and reducing contamination in the residential commingled recycling stream. The study concluded in November 2021.
The goal of the study was to determine the most effective communication mediums and messages for creating behavior change, specifically for reducing contamination in the region’s single-family curbside recycling stream. As part of the study, the ReCREATE team designed and implemented an education and outreach campaign that primarily consisted of providing in-person, door-to-door outreach (“direct contact”) and cart tagging, along with social media outreach. The study also conducted waste characterizations, which included pre and post- cart-based sampling to determine the comparative impacts of each outreach strategy.
Key Report Findings included:
- A key finding of the study as evidenced by the waste characterization data was a substantial reduction in contamination in both of the test groups.
- Recycling contamination was reduced substantially in the two outreach groups. Across all communities, the total reduction in contamination for the Oops Tag Only group was 43%. The reduction in contamination for the Oops Tag and Direct Contact was 33.21%.
- The most confusing items for residents to understand how to recycle included plastic bags, aseptic containers, clothing, and food containers contaminated with food (residents were unsure of how “clean” a product had to be to be).
- The vast majority of residents connected most with messaging that addressed the safety of local workers, followed by the economic impact of recycling right. The least popular messaging was about environmental impacts.
Upon conclusion, ReCREATE produced a report that provides a project overview, key findings, and recommendations to help inform the development of future Authority programs. You can download the full report (pdf) here.