Right now, recycling is often presented in a confusing and inconsistent way. The millions of different looking recycling bins and labels throughout society make recycling seem disheveled and inefficient and this leaves the public feeling apathetic and skeptical about the effectiveness of recycling programs. Seven years ago, founder Mitch Hedlund started the 501(c)3 non-profit, Recycle Across America and introduced the society-wide standardized labels for recycling bins and celebrity led Let’s recycle right!® PSA campaign to combat the issue of confusion at the bin and help make it easier for everyone, everywhere to recycle right.
The standardized labels are now being used in the State of Rhode Island, Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts, Orlando International Airport, the National Parks, and in over 6,000 K-12 schools across the country. They were even used on recycling bins during this year’s Super Bowl – the first zero-waste Super Bowl with a 90% diversion rate! Our goal is not only to get this solution farther and faster, but more importantly to help students (the next generation of leaders and changemakers) recycle right and act on their good intentions!
The standardized labels have been proven to help schools both increase their recycling levels and decrease their contamination (trash in recycling) levels – saving them money in trash hauling fees. Here’s one example of a school district in Florida that saved big after using the standardized labels.
In 2016, Bank of America donated free standardized labels to all of the K-12 public schools in Orlando, Florida. Because of their donation, the Orange County Public Schools District (OCPS) has seen an increase in their recycling levels of nearly 90% as a result of the gift of free standardized labels for their recycling bins and the school district saved more than $369,000 (net savings)!!
Here is an excerpt from Jennifer Fowler’s recap of their recycling program since Bank of America provided the donation (Jennifer heads up the waste diversion program at the school district):
“Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) received the generous donation of 25,000 standardized recycling and landfill labels for our recycling bins from the Bank of America and Recycle Across America. The standardized labels were distributed to the 184 district schools prior to the start of the 2015-2016 school year and placed on their respective containers by the OCPS custodial team. A set of 20 schools were chosen to audit before and after the placement of the labels. Data collected during this audit revealed an increase from an average of 2.55 pounds per student to an average 4.81 pounds per student. The total pounds reported by the vendor also revealed an increase of over 26,000 total pounds recycled, which would extrapolate to approximately 239,200 total pounds diverted from the landfill. It is evident that the standardized labels have been instrumental in increasing district recycling and saving money by diverting materials from landfill-bound garbage bins. Based on the results of school staff interviews, the labels are providing a consistent message to prevent confusion on what goes into a recycling container versus a garbage bin.”
In 2017, Recycle Across America was able to donate standardized labels to K-12 schools in Miami-Dade County thanks to a donation from Whole Foods Market stores in Miami. We’re hopeful that the school district will be able to implement the standardized labels district wide and see similar results to Orange County Public Schools!