Mid Michigan Waste Authority is launching a new curbside education pilot in eight of its member communities that aims to improve recycling habits while recognizing residents who are already demonstrating good recycling behavior.

The 15-week pilot runs from April 16 to July 27, and will cover parts of Bridgeport Township, Carrollton Township, James Township, Saginaw Township, Spaulding Township, Village of St. Charles, Thomas Township, and Tittabawassee Township.

The project is funded in part by a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Recycling Education Grant. Last May, MMWA was one of 13 entities statewide to receive an education grant, which supports Governor Snyder’s 2014 Residential Recycling Plan of Action by increasing access to recycling, improving recycling processing capacity, and promoting recycling education in Michigan.

Through the pilot, MMWA is changing the tone of its curbside education efforts by using two new stickers to help educate residents and promote the MMWA recycling program.

The “Gold Medal” sticker will provide positive reinforcement to those residents who “get caught being good recyclers.” Recycling collection workers will leave the sticker on bins and cans that are prepared properly and contain only accepted recyclables.

The “Oops!” sticker will be left on recycling bins or cans that contain the three most common recycling container contaminants: plastic bags, foam products, or greasy pizza boxes. Because these items are not recyclable in the MMWA curbside program, the sticker will remind residents that they should be placed in the trash.

“These stickers provide a rare and valuable opportunity to provide direct feedback to our residents,” said MMWA Administrative Director Katharine Tessin. “We want to educate residents who are mistakenly putting the wrong items in their recycling containers, but we also want to let good recyclers know that we recognize and appreciate their efforts.”

Each sticker will also feature information encouraging residents to use a recycling can instead of a bin. Residents may use any 45-gallon or smaller can with handles, as long as they are labeled with “Recyclables Only” stickers available through MMWA or local municipal offices.

Larger cans help keep recyclables contained and dry and reduce blowing litter. Because a 45-gallon can is more than twice the size of the currently used 18-gallon, the greater capacity also allows residents to recycle more items, without the space constraints of the smaller bins.

Residents who receive the stickers are asked to participate in a brief online survey to help measure the success of the pilot project. Each sticker will feature a link to the survey. Respondents may remain anonymous or they can provide their contact information to be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift card to a locally-owned business.

The initiative also includes billboards in participating communities promoting the, “Have you outgrown your recycling bin?” message.

Increasing curbside recycling participation is a key objective for MMWA, but it is also critical that residents are recycling the correct items, explained Tessin.

“We know our recyclers have the best of the intentions when they place materials to the curb, but sometimes ‘wishful recycling’ means the wrong things end up in recycling containers,” she said. “Recycling is good for the environment, but it is also a business, and we need to make sure we are providing our end-use manufacturers with clean, quality materials.”

Residents in areas that are not part of the pilot project will see no change to their curbside recycling program. Drivers will continue to use the orange stickers that inform residents of improperly prepared trash, recycling, or yard waste, or note that a bulk item has been scheduled for collection.

For more information about the curbside education pilot, contact MMWA at (989) 781-9555 or mwwa@recyclemotion.org.