WHO: Cherry Hill Township, N.J.
PROJECT: Recyclebank rewards program
LAUNCHED: July 2008
SAVINGS: $565,500/year in landfill fees

THE LATEST: After saving $200,000 in landfill fees within six months, Cherry Hill Township realized its Recyclebank program was a no-brainer. The public works department rolled out the rewards program as part of a cost-saving overhaul of its recycling services that also included changing to single-stream collection.

Combining recyclable materials saves more than just the few seconds it takes to sort paper, plastic, and glass. “Collecting separated recyclables requires more elaborate and expensive trucks. The collection facilities realized if they changed their plants to accommodate single-stream collection, it would simplify things on our end, and probably result in more business for them,” says Public Works Director Steve Musilli.

In the meantime, the municipality launched a campaign to bring its 70,000 residents on board. Each household received a 96-gallon recycling tub and details of the new process. Residents were invited to earn rewards points based on the amount they recycle, by weight. They can redeem the points for coupons and discounts from national and local retailers.

“Whenever you make a change in services, there is always the possibility of a negative response. The response to our recycling initiative — including Recyclebank — has been very positive,” says Dan Keashen, the mayor's chief of staff. “The single-stream collection certainly provides a convenience factor, but people are more willing to listen if you reward them.”

To plan for the change, the mayor's office tested the waters with an opinion poll two years before the program began. More than 60% of respondents were “agreeable” or “very agreeable” to changing the trash collection schedule in exchange for Recyclebank's benefits.

Residential recycling is supplemented by collection programs for electronic waste, oil, tires, plastic bags, and appliances. The township also delivers 68,000 cubic yards of leaves to nearby farmers instead of hauling them to compost facilities, saving more than $400,000 a year.

With its multipronged approach, Cherry Hill more than doubled its recycled waste by the end of 2010, from an average of 4,000 to 8,700 tons/year. On top of saving more than a half million dollars in landfill fees, the recycled goods are a source of revenue. Under a county agreement with the recycling facilities, Cherry Hill Township is reimbursed for a percentage of the commodities it returns. While the amount fluctuates with commodity prices, the town made $180,000 in 2010 and has already received $95,000 in the first quarter of 2011.

Cherry Hill's kids are benefiting, too. The Recyclebank Green Schools program allows participants to donate points to support environmental education. So far, points have paid for a greenhouse at Beck Middle School, an outdoor classroom at Bret Harte Elementary, a green roof on a baseball dugout at Cherry Hill High School West, and an organic garden at Cherry Hill High School East.

“Every municipality should take a hard look at an incentive-based recycling program,” advises Keashen. In addition to the environmental benefits, he points out the financial benefits can help towns cut expenses without having to lay off staff. “For us, it's been a complete win/win.”

To read the original article that appeared in the March 2009 issue, “Recycle and be rewarded,” go to http://go.hw.net/0309news.