The Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County (RRRASOC) has won an award for Excellence in Recycling from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. ReCollect tools are featured for innovation and reporting. 

At RRRASOC, Tracy Purrenhage and Michael Csapo make sure residents and municipalities know how to recycling right. RRRASOC is a municipal solid waste authority with nine member communities in Michigan. They provide 265,000 people and 69,000 single family households with curbside recycling. In February 2016, they implemented a new online recycling directory: a searchable, intuitive database of recycling rules. 

RRRASOC’s recycling directory is on the web and available via mobile app. It is embedded on the homepage of rrrasoc.org as well as on three of its member communities’ websites (Farmington Hills, Milford and Novi). They also promoted the app with a video.


Getting to Residents


RRRASOC provides information to nine municipalities. Although they connect with homeowners directly, much of their education is via municipal partners. In the past, they would send these municipalities binders of alphabetized recycling rules. Because information got stale as rules changed, it was difficult to keep everyone updated.

Now, RRRASOC’s tools promote consistency of information. Homeowners can use the directory themselves. They can also call the city and get the exact same information.

RRRASOC distributed flyers and postcards to promote their recycling directory



 

Outreach Metrics


RRRASOC has an incredibly successful residential recycling program. Their success hinges on consistent, innovative and strategic outreach and education efforts.

One of the ways that RRRASOC ensures strategic outreach is through data. The key four types of metrics that RRRASOC most uses are:

  • Total number of material searches

  • List of top 10 materials searches (which currently includes televisions, latex paint, Styrofoam, batteries, and plastic bags)

  • Mobile app downloads

  • Number of support requests received and forwarded to RRRASOC for resolution


These metrics allow RRRASOC to customize education and outreach efforts. Within the directory, for instance, residents can make suggestions for certain items if they’re not there. Aside from a few jokers (one person suggested radioactive plutonium for the directory!), this helps RRRASOC identify what residents don’t know.

The data also offers insights into what people are searching for, most popular items, and where searches are coming from. It allows them to look inside the habits and needs of homeowners.

Measuring Success


It’s one thing to make a tool available for people, and another to know it’s working. Michael Csapo believes the use of the tool is a success, because it has received thousands of searches already. “There were 60,000 searches last year,” Michael Csapo reported. “That’s tens of thousands of emails or frustrating internet searches that didn’t have to take place by those users.”

Over time, too, Michael and Tracy expect to see a change in participation rates, recycling rates and contamination rates. Recycling rates are “long term metrics that don’t depend solely on the ReCollect directory,” says Michael. “But it certainly plays a role in getting people to do what we call recycle more and recycle right.”

RRRASOC’s board of directors like the tool, too, because it demonstrates a use of technology to address public education. They like the fact that it’s cloud based, and that there’s a mobile app. “Municipal governments don’t take advantage of technology as quickly as private sector companies have to do to stay in business, says Michael. “This is a high tech, visible public program that officials end up liking a lot.”

Award


The RRRASOC Excellence in Recycling Award was made by Architectural Salvage Warehouse and stands in the lobby



The MDEQ award recognizes commitment to educating others about the need for and benefits of recycling.

On receiving the award, Tracy Purrenhage said: What was a big factor in receiving this award was that it was an innovative tool to use. [It was] something different, unique, and innovative that we haven’t had before, made for a population that is using technology.

So what are Michael and Tracy doing with the award now? They say it’s business as usual. They sent out notice to their board directors, put the award out in the lobby, and went back to work.

Still, they say, it’s nice to be recognized.

Edit: Since the publication of this article, Waste360 reported on the award. You can read about it here.