Given the upheaval in the recycling industry, Dempsey's company looks to improve efficiencies through localizing programs through partnering with businesses, nonprofits and community outreach.
Earlier this month, Recyclebank lost its contract with Waste Connections in Wichita, Kansas, and Recycling Perks took over. Residents there showed preference for recycling incentives with a more local focus.
Waste Dive spoke with Recycling Perks President Bill Dempsey to discuss how companies such as his can help improve efficiency in the recycling industry, given the recent market upheaval. Recycling Perks, which first began its recycling incentive program in 2011, is a company under the Verde umbrella that partners with local municipalities to boost recycling rates. Under this scheme, residents earn points toward discounts at local businesses.
The following conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
WASTE DIVE: What’s the incentive for a recycling company to partner with Recycling Perks?
BILL DEMPSEY: We speak directly to residents and we do that in a multitude of ways. One is by hiring people directly in the market to manage that program. We can be at events, do mailers and can utilize the data that is collected on a day-to-day basis to really get an understanding of not only who is recycling, but who is not recycling, and that allows us to then develop a plan based on demographics and geographically as to where we need to focus. Because of issues with China, making sure people are recycling the right material and putting the right material in the containers so there is less contamination and people have the understanding of what needs to be done specifically in their market.
How is your model different than other competitors?
DEMPSEY: We really believe that all trash and recycling is local so the program should be local, meaning we engage with local business and local nonprofits to help give money back to the community and help reach people that are part of their programs to educate them on the benefits of recycling and doing things right as it relates to their community.
I know that Recyclebank does not have a local market rep. When we go into a market, we hire someone from that particular market. That person has an understanding of what are the good places to go to, of what the town or municipality is trying to do. They act as a liaison between us, the hauler or the city.
A lot of times, cities say ‘how are we doing?’ and they say ‘we're doing pretty good.’ Well, can you define 'pretty good?' We make sure that we are reporting who has recycled, who hasn't recycled, what did we do for education, how many people have signed up, how many businesses we have [as participants] and how many events have we gone to. For me, the biggest difference is is that we communicate as much as needed in response to the people that we serve.
Have you seen participation rate, capture rate or diversion rates go up by any percentage in any cities?
DEMPSEY: We continue to strive and we're only as good as the data we get, whether it's the MRF, the scale house or whatever.
So when we look at an area that — let's just say they have 20% participation — how do we then get into that neighborhood? How do we develop programs that engage those residents to where they recycle more? In a lot of cases, we see participation increase from 25-40% by developing specific programs that target that particular part of the city. And we go back to check to make sure that it's not a one-hit wonder, but that it is something that's sustainable.
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