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Phoenix to Divert 40% Waste from Landfill by 2020

The city of Phoenix is overhauling its solid waste management programs as it aims to divert 40 percent of its waste from landfill by 2020.

Phoenix’s diversion rate for fiscal year 2011-2012 was 13 percent, below the national average. With “40 by 20,” a goal set by mayor Greg Stanton, the Public Works Department hopes to triple the city’s diversion rate through aggressive outreach, education and possible economic incentives to residents. This will extend the life of its landfill assets, thus delaying future taxpayer-funded investments, the city said.

Arizona-based Earth911 and California-based Citizen Group, a branding and advertising agency, will partner with the city on the project by developing a plan for communication and public education. Together, the companies will evaluate the best practices of model cities in increasing residents’ motivation, understanding and participation in recycling and proper disposal.

Earth911 will identify gaps in recycling availability and residents’ knowledge of how to recycle, and will use its expertise in recycling data to define a communications strategy, which could include mobile applications and the use of data about common consumer products.

The Public Works Department, which has nearly 400,000 customers, also aims to revamp the way waste is handled by the city, including diversion of organic waste to composting, improving collection services, and reducing illegal dumping and mishandling of household hazardous waste. It is planning inventive reuse of closed landfills for projects such as parks.

The city also plans to use 40 by 20 as a catalyst for the creation of a Center for Excellence in Solid Waste Research, a collaboration with industry and academic partners to identify new solutions and uses for solid waste. It will be based around a partnership between the Public Works Department and Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

In October last year, Coca-Cola Enterprises, which produces, markets and distributes Coca-Cola products in Western Europe, announced plans to fund a research partnership to explore how strategies aimed at changing consumer consumer behavior can improve at-home recycling rates in Great Britain and France, and increase the number of bottles entering the recycling stream. While consumers express strong beliefs related to recycling, at-home recycling rates do not reflect their intent, the company said. The research program is seeking to define interventions which can overcome this gap between belief and behavior.

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