Renegades win recycling battle with the Warriors

August 5, 2011

By Emily Baer

The results are in and the Recycling Renegades have taken the title from the Waste Less Warriors in Waste Management’s Newcastle Neighborhood Recycling Rewards competition.

On average, Renegade households recycled about a half-pound more each month than Warrior homes, Waste Management communications representative Robin Freedman said.

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The competition — which arose out of discussions between city officials and Northwest members of Waste Management — was meant to increase recycling rates among Newcastle residents.

According to the city’s page on the Waste Management website, Newcastle produces approximately 1,600 tons of garbage each year, 78 percent of which is recyclable or compostable.

“Those landfills are filling up and the earth’s not making any more land,” Public Works Director Mark Rigos said. “It’s expensive to treat and store waste away. We all encourage recycling, so any way the community can come together to recycle is great.”

In January, Waste Management split the city into two teams along Coal Creek Parkway. Those to the west competed for the Recycling Renegades and those to the east for the Waste Less Warriors. Teams had from Jan. 24 to June 24 to out-recycle each other.

Rules stated that the region with the greatest increase in recycling per average household would receive $5,000 from Waste Management “for an improvement project of their choice.” Such projects include park benches, bike racks, public art, playground equipment and public place recycling equipment.

Though only one winner was officially named, Freedman said the program was beneficial for all.

“This program has been a win-win, because both neighborhoods showed significant increases in recycling, resulting in a citywide increase of 22 percent year over year,” she said.

During the five-month competition, the city recycled nearly 550 tons of materials—an increase of more than 100 tons of materials compared to the same five-month period in 2010. Residents also increased food composting and yard waste participation by 50 tons.

By the end of the recycling challenge, Newcastle had reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 99 tons.

“Recycling helps to reduce the amount of natural resources used to manufacture new products and also reduces air emissions associated with manufacturing,” Freedman said.

Though the $5,000 incentive seemed to spur on the Renegades and Warriors in their quest to raise recycling rates, Freedman said she believes that the increased waste consciousness of Newcastle residents is a permanent trend — with or without a monetary incentive.

“We rarely, if ever, see communities go backwards in regards to recycling and composting rates,” she said. “Clearly, this challenge encouraged Newcastle residents to change some of their most basic everyday consumption behaviors.”

Waste Management has implemented recycling incentive programs that rewarded residents for good recycling efforts before, but this was the first neighborhood-versus-neighborhood challenge that it has sponsored in the Puget Sound area.

Freedman said the company decided to pilot the program in Newcastle because of the critical support it received from City Manager Rob Wyman and City Council members.

Waste Management does not have any additional recycling competitions planned for the area in the near future, but will host educational recycling, yard waste, composting and community events soon, Freedman said.

Find Waste Management’s education recycling booth at Newcastle Days in September.

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