New Learnings about Effective P&E Distribution to Boost MR Recycling!

Distributing P&E in person to multi-residential tenants requires a lot of resources and may not be feasible for all buildings in all municipalities. However, occasional in-person distribution to prudently selected buildings can reap valuable information and boost recovery.

To test this theory, Simcoe County put a new spin on a familiar study. Staff selected three buildings with similar demographics from the County’s social housing sector. Next they conducted recycling audits at all three sites to establish a benchmark for contamination and capture rates. At all three buildings, staff labeled carts and enlisted superintendents to help distribute sorting guides to residents. At one of the buildings, staff conducted an open house where they distributed in-unit recycling bins, answered questions and asked residents to complete a survey. Following the open house, Simcoe staff completed a second waste audit to determine if there were any improvements.


Contamination levels fell and capture rates rose in both the paper and container streams in the building where the open house was conducted. There was little to no improvement in the buildings where P&E materials were not distributed in person. The majority of those surveyed (69%) indicated that they recycle, with many saying their greatest barriers to recycling were, not having an in-unit container (49%), and not understanding what is and isn’t recyclable (33%).

Keys to Success?

In CIF’s Multi Residential (MR) Working Group, there has been an on-going discussion about the value of dedicating staff time and resources to in person visits to buildings. While Simcoe County has been successful in improving capture and lowering contamination through messaging delivered in person, other municipalities have not experienced the same outcomes. When the MR Working Group asked Simcoe staff what they attribute their outcomes to, here’s what they shared as the four keys to their success:


  • Let residents know the day and time you’ll be onsite and what they’ll get out of your visit.

Offer Tools

  • The tool should be something that helps solve the resident’s problem. In-unit recycling containers encourage residents to recycle more and the messaging on the outside of the box or bag provides an easy reference to what is and is not recyclable.
  • Simcoe County adds, ‘be sure to label the boxes or bins in a manner that’s consistent with all the other P&E your municipality uses’.

Sign in

  • Encourage residents to sign in when they arrive for the event. This promotes a higher-level of commitment to make use of the tools you’re offering.


  • Offering something as simple as hot chocolate and cookies draws a crowd and makes your audience more open to hearing your message … there’s a reason big chain stores offer free food samples.

The fact that three-quarters of the building residents attended the County’s open house is a testament to the effectiveness of Simcoe County’s four keys to success.

For more learnings like these from the CIF MR working group, contact Jessica Landry, and watch for the new CIF MR web-hub coming next month.  The web-hub is a collection of case studies plus advice and guidance gleaned from municipalities across the province.

Visit the CIF Cooperative tender page to shop for bags and in-unit recycling containers at competitive rates. Check out this handy CIF bins or bags one-pager from the MR Working Group to help you choose between bags or in-unit recycling boxes.