Recycling Cart Tagging Pilot

Cart Tagging Pilot FAQ

In recent years, recycling markets have changed drastically. Instead of sending recyclable materials overseas, Mecklenburg County is now sending recyclable materials to local buyers. Using regional recycling buyers means more environmental and economic benefits for NC but requires that only eligible recyclables are included in your recycling cart.

Regional recycling buyers also have stricter contamination requirements. To be accepted by regional buyers, contamination of recyclable material must be less than 0.5 percent. The current contamination rate in Mecklenburg County is 17 percent. The County's high contamination rate is being caused by the wrong items being placed in the recycling cart. The 2019 Cart Tagging Pilot is being implemented to address the issue of contamination in the curbside recycling cart.

What is the purpose of the program? What are the goals of the pilot?
The purpose of this pilot is to reduce recycling contamination and increase recycling knowledge within the selected communities. The goals of this pilot are a 20-percent reduction in contamination and a 30 percent increase in recycling knowledge by FY21.

How will the pilot work?
A cart tagging team will be responsible for inspecting recycling carts biweekly. Once they have inspected the cart, a team member will leave either a green or red tag on the cart. The green tag will symbolize a job well done. The red tag will symbolize that the cart contains multiple contaminants and additional recycling education is needed. All team members will be wearing shirts with the City of Charlotte logo.

Why use cart tagging as a strategy to reduce recycling contamination?
This program has been piloted in Greensboro, NC; Atlanta, GA; and Clark County, WA. Previous studies and other municipality pilot programs have shown that tagging programs reduced household recycling contamination by 20-40 percent.  Cart tagging is also a proven method for reducing contamination because

  1. We interact with people at the point of action.
  2. The tags provide personal feedback about the contents of their cart.
  3. Residents receive positive reinforcement for good behavior when a green tag is left.
  4. The cart tagging pilot is an example of community based social marketing. Studies show 68 percent of people respond to being helped to change behavior.

What communication is being sent to the resident?
Residents in the selected areas have received a letter explaining the pilot and pre-pilot survey quizzing them on their recycling knowledge. At the conclusion of the pilot, the resident will receive a thank you letter for participating and post-pilot survey with the same questions from the pre-pilot survey to see if their recycling knowledge has improved.

In what areas/districts are the pilot taking place? How were these areas selected?
3,000 homes were selected to be part of this pilot. The pilot will be conducted in council districts 1, 2,4, and 7 along 11 different recycling routes. Communities within the selected areas include Plaza Midwood, Hidden Valley, Beatties Ford Rd., Green Briar, Vernon Drive, Wendover, Willowmere, Claiborne Woods, and Cotswold. These areas have been identified as having highly-contaminated recycling carts through door hangers left by Waste Management and through field observation by Solid Waste contract monitors.

How long is the pilot?
The pilot will begin Monday, October 7, 2019 and conclude on May 1, 2020. The month of January will serve as the midpoint and there will be no cart tagging during this time.

How do the cart tags look?