How To Design An Effective Recycling Program For Your Park

recycling park program


park recycling program

If you’ve ever visited a large park, you may have noticed many people disposing of recyclable waste in trash cans, even when a recycling bin is not far away. This non-compliant behavior means that those recyclables will end up in a landfill rather than a recycling center.

Common excuses for not recycling are, “the park directives were not clear enough”, or “I couldn’t find the recycling bin”. Whatever the case, park managers and others who help design recycling programs for park users must take a number of measures to ensure they deliver effective park recycling programs.

Designing Your Park Layout To Encourage Recycling

Designing your park layout with recycling in mind can help increase your landfill diversion rate, among other gains. An increased diversion rate is important since it implies more recyclable waste being recovered for recycling instead of ending up in landfills. The best way to achieve this is by adopting a park recycling program. Below are some tips to consider if you wish to implement a park recycling program.

Observe And Review

When looking to design a recycling program for park users, it is essential to review previous methods and pick up lessons from them. Observing the current waste disposal setup as well as visitor behavior can provide insights that will assist in the implementation of any park recycling program. By monitoring the various ways visitors use waste disposal facilities, potential challenges can be identified and tackled.  Discussing programs with other park colleagues, The Recycling Partnership, and your local or National Recycling Coalition may provide ideas and  best practices for communication, equipment and placement.

Any attempt to promote recycling in a high-use area such as a park must realize that it is the visitor who influences what will be recycled or otherwise. Therefore, understanding visitor behavior and trends will go a long way in the quest for a consistent yet simplistic park recycling program.

Evolve Consistent Policies

Variations in bin color, shape, terminology, and symbols can lead to waste disposal and recycling confusion, especially in larger-sized parks. Erika Smith, a Recreation Supervisor at Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation advises, “Clear and consistent information and branding is criticalVisuals and colors are especially useful and should be part of a larger vision if possible.”

Park elements that should be consistently designed include bins, labels, locations, and lids. Consistent bins will enable visitors to easily differentiate between recycling, trash, and compost. Consistent labeling will clearly indicate what kind of waste should be disposed of in each container and thus assist landfill diversion efforts. Labels should not only include the type of waste and its icon but can also show textual translations for foreign visitors the park receives.

Consistent lids that promote the proper use of the bins will help reduce contamination since visitors tend to respond faster to visual cues than to textual ones. Such designs, plus a corresponding hole for the intended waste, will be effective when it comes to deterring contamination. For example, a lid with a slotted opening is an indication that only mixed paper should be disposed of there.

In a nutshell, achieving consistency in the key areas of your park recycling program will help divert recyclable waste that would have ended up in landfills. It only takes one person to contaminate an entire bin which can be disheartening but it’s also an opportunity to educate and build awareness to move toward better recycling rates and better awareness of where our waste goes and how we each can impact that.”, says Erika.

Provide Clear Signage

Effective and consistent signage is paramount in any park recycling program because it gives visitors an idea of where to recycle and what can be recycled. Without proper signage, visitors are likely to become confused and discretionary and may consequently dispose of waste improperly.

For the best possible outcomes, large, recognizable, and consistent signs and symbols that clearly state what is accepted for recycling at any particular location should be posted. They should be placed on all sides of the container such that visitors approaching from any side will visualize them with ease, even from a distance.

By making the signs and symbols clear and highly visible, even from a distance, you boost communication and the overall environmental ethic in your park.  By achieving the main goal of incorporating effective and consistent signage into a park recycling program, you effectively communicate what visitors can recycle and where.  Reducing visitor confusion encourages and improves recycling efforts.

For parks that regularly welcome a significant number of foreign visitors, integrating textual translations will be necessary.  Pictures and icons on signage and bins tell a story most people can understand.

argo park canoe livery recycling program

Clearly labeled directions and signage at Argo Live Canoery

Choose The Best Locations

The bin location is an important consideration when establishing a more effective recycling program. For the most effective park recycling program, recycling bins should be consistently positioned beside trash and compost cans and in locations convenient for visitors. Ideally, recycling bins should be positioned directly beside all trash and compost cans, so when people go to dispose of any kind of waste in the park, they’ll also have the option to recycle.

When selecting a location, emphasis should be placed on proximity to both the waste bins and the visitor paths. Grouping the clearly labeled bins in a central location is important. Park workers in Ann Arbor have previously noticed that visitors will improperly dispose of recyclables and other waste if receptacles are not placed within their specific location, or if only a trash can or only a recycling bin is available there. Dumpsters located just twenty feet or more away from a recycling area are seldom utilized properly since they are perceived as inconvenient to visitors.  

To get the cleanest possible recycling stream and the highest landfill diversion rate, trash and compost receptacles should always be positioned alongside recycling bins and vice versa. One effective solid waste management best practice is to mount recycling receptacles in locations where they’ll be seen before the trash and compost bins.

For example, in the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, a plastic recycling container was once located immediately after a trash can when taking the shuttle to the Center. Since visitors came across the trash can first, they incorrectly disposed of a large proportion of their recyclables in it.

Upon this observation, the recycling container was relocated to the opposite side of the trash, making it the first thing visitors see when they depart from the shuttle. Since that change was made, the contamination levels in both the trash can and recycling bin have decreased.

Here are key takeaways from the above tips:

  • Ensure consistency in the labeling and location of all bins
  • To reduce contamination, labels should clearly identify the types of wastes accepted by the park
  • It is necessary to evaluate the location of the receptacles with respect to both the visitor and existing waste receptacles
  • A monitored stream for recycling will assist in tracking compliance as well as progress in landfill diversion
  • Observe the behaviors of visitors with respect to waste disposal and adapt your plan

Educating Visitors And Increasing Compliance For Recycling

Humans can be unpredictable at times. That is why compliance measures are necessary to ensure that everyone using park waste disposal facilities does so properly. So how can parks achieve this?

For Erika Smith, increasing compliance is a group effort, stating, “Recycling rules and availability are not uniform across cities, so it’s really important to inform the public of the materials you want in those bins. It is also a best practice to cluster together the waste options, embrace marketing strategies (understand the psychology behind behavior change), and assign staff support to monitor and demonstrate that this is important to the organization.”

burns park ann arbor recycling program

Waste and recycling station at Burns Park

Must-Have Equipment To Encourage Recycling

There is a lot of vital equipment used in the recycling industry. Some of the equipment includes recycling bins, trash cans, signage and information boards at the public level.  In collection and processing, you’ll see conveyor belts, separators, rotary shears, baling presses, paper refiners, compactors, universal shredders, centrifuge separators, granulators, reel splitters, and more.

Examples Of Park Recycling Programs

Park recycling programs are increasingly implemented by both public and private sector organizations in the US and beyond. A few of them are described below.

Recycle Ann Arbor Park Recycling Program

In 2016, Erika Smith’s Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation and the Adopt-A-Park Program launched this recycling program that aims to assist lawn tennis players in recycling their tennis balls.

New green collection bins specifically produced for the purpose of collecting tennis balls were initially installed in three area parks – Buhr, Burns, and West Park. The plan was to expand the program to eventually cover all Ann Arbor Parks with tennis courts and then extend to their area dog parks.

Yellowstone National Park Recycling Program

Yellowstone National Park is a 2.2 million-acre park that promotes environmental sustainability and educates up to 2 million visitors annually. The park gathers source-separated recyclable materials from several campsites and employee residences. The Yellowstone Park recycling program commenced as part of an environmental management system (EMS).

Implementation of the EMS was a joint effort involving park managers; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the Wyoming and Montana Departments of Environmental Quality; the park concessionaires, Xanterra Parks and Resorts, and Delaware North Park Services. The system emerged from an initiative known as the “Greening of Yellowstone,” which started in 1996. The initiative’s aim was to promote sustainable practices and advance sound environmental stewardship.

South Carolina Recycling At The Park Partnership

South Carolina provides visitors with recycling opportunities at each of its 47 state parks and historic sites. The recycling program targets plastic bottles and aluminum cans and also encourages visitors to collect additional recyclables and take them home. The program is a result of a partnership between the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Browse Recycling Equipment For Parks

Do you need expertise and experience to design a recycling program for your parks? If yes, then Polly Products is your answer! Equip your park, business, recreational facility, public space, school, campground, golf course, local municipality – all of them – with Polly Products’ high-quality commercial outdoor trash cans, recycling bins, and combination recycling receptacles today.

The majority of our commercial trash receptacles and recycling receptacles offer permanent signage through optional word/logo engraving that will ensure that your park is always clean to provide an optimal visitor experience. Because they are made of recycled plastic, these commercial receptacles not only keep your park tidy but are also friendly to our troubled planet. Our products are made entirely in America with American recycled plastic.

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