Clear Bags for Garbage Increase Waste Diversion at Town of Kearney

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Mandatory clear bags is often associated with enforcing recycling bylaws and that’s too bad because the biggest benefit in a clear bags program may actually be the opportunity they offer for communicating with residents.

The Town of Kearney operates two depot drop-off sites, which creates a perfect opportunity for attendants to connect face-to-face with residents.  Having started a clear bag program for household waste in 2016, the attendants were able to see when recyclables were mixed in with garbage and start a dialogue about what’s recyclable and how recycling helps the community.

“In a close knit community like this, all you really need to do is point something out once and people will change” Bruce Curzon – Site Attendant

With this step, the Town increased the amount of recycling diverted from landfill by more than 5% in a single year.

How did Kearney implement its program?

It was timely that CIF published its Clear Bags Implementation Toolkit in 2015, just when the Town was deciding if clear bags were a fit with their waste program.  Following the steps outlined in the Toolkit, Kearney staff were able to plan out their new clear bags program quickly.

“Having the guidebook helped with a lot of the questions we were unsure of and made planning far more efficient” Cindy Filmore – Senior Office Assistant

CIF provided financial and technical assistance under project #902 for the design, printing, and distribution of promotion and education (P&E) materials used to inform residents of the program change. The Town spent approximately $1.58 per household on P&E which, in addition to staff time, was the only significant cost to implement this change.

Were there bumps in the road?

Of course!  When cottagers showed up in the summer months, they were unaware of the new program. Luckily, the toolkit had prepared staff for this and they were able to provide the cottagers with take-home P&E material to explain the new program and many of the frequently asked questions.  By the second visit, the vast majority of cottagers understood the new program and were happy to comply.

Key takeaways

  1. Clear bags policies for garbage have repeatedly been demonstrated to improve Blue Box diversion
  2. Implementing clear bags policies typically require minimal capital costs
  3. It’s important to prepare for seasonal resident education by having take-home P&E material ready for their arrival

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