An Excellent Waste of Time

How much is too much when it comes to setting out your waste?

For the team behind the City’s innovative Large Volume Set Out (LVSO) initiative, finding the answer to this question started with defining what a large volume of waste actually looks like. “From our research we learned that 10 per cent of all residences create 30 per cent of the waste collected. And half of these households are producing large volumes of waste each week,” says Farid Iskandar, Marketing Coordinator with Waste Management.

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The LVSO initiative grew from City Council’s direction to explore methods of mitigating concerns from residents about the flat-rate waste fee, whereby all households pay the same rate regardless of their waste volumes. The initiative was specifically created to help reduce the differences in volumes of waste between households, and to encourage residents to take a more conscientious approach to waste disposal. Social marketing was the ideal approach, as the team wanted to go beyond sharing information with residents and work with residents to see positive changes in how they sort and set out their waste. Through observation and research, it was determined that the average household puts out two bags of waste and one bag of recycling each week. How much do you set out?

The LVSO program targets homes with five or more bags of garbage as having a large volume of waste. Routes are checked before collection each morning and flagged using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology if they have set out large volumes. This immediate recording of data allows for quick evaluation and the ability to ensure the best results as well as resident satisfaction. Within a few hours of collection, canvassers visit these Large Volume households, providing near immediate feedback. During the interaction, canvassers work with residents at their home to develop a waste reduction strategy for the household and encourage participation in City services such as Eco Stations, the Reuse Centre and the Blue Bag recycling program. “We want to make it a positive interaction with people, so our canvassers receive about a week of training on how to ensure residents have all the help they need to reduce their volumes of waste,” says Farid.

The social marketing program is cost-effective and combines innovation, education, collaboration and technology while building goodwill in the community, which enforcement of volume limits alone would not accomplish. Since the project was launched in 2014, it has run on average twice a year – from late fall until just before the holiday season, and again from January to early spring.

A surprising yet effective behaviour change tool used in social marketing is obtaining commitments. “We know people are more likely to adopt a new behaviour if they’ve made a commitment, and our staff are able to get commitments from 80 per cent of residents in a brief five-minute conversation!” says Farid.

“We weren’t sure how it was going to be received initially, knocking on doors and telling people they have too much garbage,” says Pat Church, Social Marketing Manager with Waste Management. “But Edmontonians do care about their city and the impact they have on it and have been quite receptive to it!”

LVSO 2 (1)

Since the pilot launched in 2014, almost 7,000 houses have been visited, reaching 4,000 residents. By the end of this year, all households with large volumes of waste, will have been visited at least once in the residential areas the City collects waste from.

A 2016 evaluation showed that 69 per cent of the Large Volume Producers had set out less waste during their follow-up inspection, and 41 per cent reduced their waste by two or more bags. This same target audience more than doubled the amount of their recycling. These statistics showcase the effectiveness of this program, which contributes to our goal of diverting up to 90 per cent of residential waste from landfill.

So, the next time you set out your waste, “waste” some time on our handy WasteWise app at edmonton.ca, to learn what goes where and try to limit how much you are setting out each week!

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