Two employees placing a tag on a recycling bin on the street

Orange County’s Recycling Pilot Provides Pivotal Data

Community & Services

Orange County has concluded a successful, multi-week recycling improvement program pilot consisting of tagging the blue-lid recycling carts at more than 640 households in the Park Manor subdivision in East Orange County.

The purpose of the program was to provide curbside feedback about the quality of recyclables and to educate residents about recycling right. The goal was to increase the amount of material being processed at recycling facilities by removing plastic bags and other non-recyclables from the carts.

Each week of the study, which started in June 2018 and ended in August 2018, crews looked inside carts and left recycling feedback tags. Each cart was given a tag ranging from “Great Job” (near perfect), “Good Try” (a few recommended tweaks) or “Oops” (needs improvement) with guidance in English and Spanish.

Overall, two truckloads, for a total of 10 tons, from the neighborhood were recycled.

Figure 1: Tag Trends

Figure 1: Tag Trends graph

Table 1: Tag Trends

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8
Addresses Tagged out of 643 477 643 633 643 638 643 596 616
Not Set Out 159 284 217 239 256 259 256 254
Great Job Tag 100 116 128 151 156 172 176 191
Good Try Tag 161 173 212 185 183 177 126 125
Oops Tag 57 70 76 68 42 32 36 40
Carts Turned Around N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 3 2 6

David Gregory, Solid Waste Manager for Orange County Utilities extended his appreciation to the Park Manor residents as well as the crews who tagged carts during the summer heat.

“This was a positive first step, but we still have more work to do,” Gregory said.

Of the tags issued, the program data showed:

  • “Great Job” tags issued increased from 31% to 53% of households
  • “Good Try” tags did not contribute to improvement
  • “Oops” tags issued decreased by 42% in the second half of the program with 8 households had carts that were not collected

Other key findings included that most households do not set out recycling every week. On average, 60 percent of households set out recycling carts in a given week.

Of the wrong items, by far, plastic bags continue to be the top wrong item in carts, followed by “Yuck” (garbage, food and liquids).

Gregory said the data gathered and lessons learned are essential for the next steps toward a recycling improvement countywide.

“Recycling industry standards have changed. We need to continue to look at the most efficient ways to improve the quality of the increased quantity left by the curb, and are committed to improving recycling in Orange County,” he added.

Next steps include: a possible second pilot area in early 2019 using only two tags (“Oops” and “Great Job”) and not collecting carts at addresses that continue to recycle improperly. Overall, the goal is to continue gathering enough data to determine bid specifics for a contractor to conduct a program countywide.

Orange County based its pilot off of similar recycling tagging programs in Atlanta, Chicago and the state of Massachusetts. For more information on recycling correctly and what you can do, please visit,

Photo Caption: Nick Walker and Gloria Metcalf of Orange County’s recycling program demonstrate tagging of a recycling cart at the recycling tagging pilot launch.

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