More effective separation of recyclables from household trash 

Table of contents:

Curbside waste & recycling collection points.

Whether through curbside collection or community drop-off points, 94% of Americans have access to some sort of recycling program. However, the accepted materials, practices and community norms around recycling programs vary considerably across the United States, contributing to differing local recycling levels. The municipal solid waste (MSW) recycling rate in the US has remained around 35% since 2010.

Effective separation of recyclables from trash is an essential aspect of any scheme designed to improve recycling rates among households. Identifying and addressing the challenges faced by households can be facilitated by communication strategies to raise awareness of correct practice, combined with well-designed infrastructure to make recycling separation as easy as possible.

Challenges of Improving Recycling Separation

While there are a number of influential factors that hinder separation of recyclables from household trash, when exploring how to improve this it’s important to consider the different types of households across the United States. 

High density multi-family communal housing waste & recycling issues.

And while the majority of Americans have access to some sort of recycling program, people who live in areas where social norms encourage recycling are more likely to be conscious of recycling rules, and how effective separation enables the trash they generate to be recycled rather than landfilled. For single-family households, engaging in effective recycling separation can be much more achievable as they often benefit from more internal space to store materials, as well as access to a curbside collection program with individual bins for trash, materials recycling, and organics.

Ensuring more effective separation of recyclables in communal households, however, presents unique challenges. 31.4% of housing in the U.S. is multifamily, and, while it’s estimated that approximately 30-40% of multifamily units currently have access to recycling, these individuals have limited space to separate their recyclables at-source. The use of communal bin stores are often hindered by neighbors with competing schedules and priorities, as well as varying attitudes towards waste management. Combined with a lack of individual householder accountability, all this makes the need for effective strategies all the more conclusive.

Effective Strategies for More Effective Separation of Recyclables

metroSTOR Recycling Infrastructure

Investment in effective infrastructure is a key aspect of changing behaviors towards recycling among households, enabling users to feel confident in their ability to correctly separate their recyclables. metroSTOR delivers physical recycling infrastructure that supports landfill diversion targets and long term visions of zero waste, identifying challenges in recycling separation among households and developing solutions that recognize the complexity in waste management systems.

multi-family trash and recycling enclosure

metroSTOR Dumpster and Cart Recycling Housings are designed to make it as easy for households to recycle correctly as it is to dispose of regular trash. Effective user-interface combines color-coded door panels with clear and easily recognizable recycling symbols, as well as apertures set at a convenient, easily accessible height to facilitate easy disposal in the correct container without users getting their hands dirty.

Research suggests we spend less than 2 seconds at a bin, meaning the window of opportunity to achieve coveted landfill diversion targets is typically limited, and any potential for confusion over what to put in the bin produces mixed results. metroSTOR products embrace these key principles within a clean design that reinforces recycling separation with color-coded graphics that clearly link back to kitchen-caddies and the dumpsters implemented at household convenience centers.