A waste audit journey; pt 1

Consumer recycling behaviors are fascinating.

Bubble wrap, orange cone, boxes in full form – all not acceptable

We’ve spent the past three days up in the very early AM to get a peek inside resident recycling and refuse carts in the City of Wausau, WI. ERbin, in partnership with Rocket Industrial, a packaging solutions provider with its headquarters also in Wausau, is conducting a waste audit for the city. The goal is to learn about resident recycling behaviors so that we can provide better education to residents about how to recycle right.

All stakeholders involved – everyone from the Marathon County Solid Waste Dept., to the private hauler, Harters, to the City of Wausau, to ERbin and Rocket Industrial – we’re all looking to find ways to decrease the amount of materials that end up in landfills.

Curbside cart audit photos
Beautiful! Materials loosely tossed into the cart.

After three days of audits in Wausau, we’re learning that the rockstar recyclers and residents who need a little more education are incredibly geographically diverse. Which begs the question, why are some residents putting more of the right materials into their carts than others?

It all starts with the packaging designers and manufacturers. That’s why we are thrilled Rocket Industrial decided to get involved with the city waste audit. Rocket works directly with brands and manufacturers to help them package with less and with other options such as increasing the recycled content in packaging material. When packaging engineers can see first-hand how consumers make disposal decisions about product packaging, they can re-think packaging design that will lead to more sustainable disposal options.

Great effort with the paperboard boxes, BUT… plastic wrap left on box and boxes not broken down

Curbside audits are a great first step in addressing barriers to recycling right. We’ll be back with more audit findings. For now, enjoy the cart photos from our audit thus far.

3, 2, 1, ERbin Re-launch

We can’t believe it has been six months since we launched the very first version of ERbin in Weston, WI! Thanks to the amazing Weston beta tester feedback, we’ve iterated on the app’s user interface many times, and have added thousands of more products for users to scan.

That means we are ready for a Weston re-launch! Beginning on Monday, September 30, Weston residents will be able to jump on Google Play or the App Store and download the newest version of ERbin (search for erbin).

After you download, have some fun in your kitchen, bathroom, or utility closet and start scanning or searching for products or instructions on how to recycle in Weston recycle bins. Remember, recycling instructions in the app are specific to Weston’s Advanced Disposal customers. That’s because Advanced takes Weston recovered materials to the Portage County Material Recovery Facility (MRF) for processing. Weston neighbors in Wausau or Kronenwetter have a different recycling service provider and processor. The guidelines vary by community – crazy, huh?!

Also super important – Head to Facebook and search for ‘Weston, WI Recycles’ Facebook Group to join an ongoing conversation with us and your fellow Weston friends about how to recycle right. You’ll be able to get answers to questions we are all asking, when it comes to knowing what is acceptable in Weston recycle bins.

Love the app? Help us out by rating us with five stars in the App Store or Google Play.

Have feedback to make the app even better? We’d love to hear from you. Email Co-founder Michelle at mgoetsch@erbinusa.com.

Thanks for staying with us on this exciting journey!

With Gratitude,

Marveling at Madison Food Scrap Program Participants

It’s amazing how asking the simple question “WHY?” can lead to such a positive impact. ERbin began from that very question: WHY? Why is it so difficult to know what to recycle in my local community?

Fourteen months and a lot of learning and progress later, we’re bringing a solution to the table.

It doesn’t have to be hard to know what to toss in your recycle bin or compost cart. When residents have instant access to the right answers, making the right decision is easy.

We’re proving this method as Madison residents use the ERbin app during this summer’s Madison Food Scrap Trial Program taking place during August and September. Community composting programs often fail because just like with recycling, residents put the wrong items in the cart. The business receiving the materials often can’t have that kind of contamination in their compost. The contamination negatively impacts the business’s ability to sell that compost to an end-user.

On Friday, August 2, City of Madison Streets Division drivers picked up the carts from the 125 trial program participants for the first time. The outcomes were fantastic. Gunderson Health System’s Middleton dairy digestor staff were extremely happy with the materials they received. Only three tags left on carts to remind residents about acceptable items.

The Week 2 pick-up took place Friday, August 9. NO cart tags were left behind; a perfect pick-up!

Nearly half of the participants have downloaded the app, and others are participating in our Facebook group or are receiving the program’s weekly emails. We can’t wait for other communities to ask “WHY?” And see how the ERbin app can have a positive impact on decreasing contamination in their composting and recycling programs.