Using Measurement

Below are some areas/issues to consider for best incorporating measurement into your campaign. While these apply mainly to those at the municipality level, consider implementing your own goals if you are a KAB affiliate, own a property, run a company or implement/promote recycling in other ways.

What to Measure
Setting and Communicating Your Goals
Tracking Tons Collected
When It Is Time for a New Contract
What Does It Cost?
What Else Should I Measure?

What to Measure

There are many elements worth evaluating:

  • Program Collections/Volume  – Volume collected from your various recycling programs is where the “rubber meets the road.” This is probably the most important element of any measurement plan. You must be able to track what you are collecting, when, how much it fluctuates and the value of these materials. 
  • Program Variables – These could include everything from changes in population to bin or cart requests. These numbers will allow for further comparisons between programs and can be used to isolate what’s working or what’s not within your community
  • Contract Details – For communities that contract program delivery or processing, different contract arrangements can have a different impact on recovery and cost.  And this is very important to the planning process. Time for a new contract?
  • Financial Information – This could include cost of pickups, landfill tipping fees, processing costs, staff costs and education costs, as well as revenues from the sale of recyclables. These figures are necessary for future program cost analysis. What does it actually cost?
  • Demographics – Knowing who is in your community and where they are will help focus your efforts. From an education standpoint, this allows you to truly know your neighborhoods and get a handle on where to spend time and energy. Consider administering a survey at a local community event asking for basic information. Check out our survey template to begin creating your own.

Setting and Communicating Your Goals
While you implement the statewide campaign locally, don’t forget to plan ahead. Set goals before implementing that will help you determine when you’ve been successful.
For example:

  • What is an achievable goal for increasing recycling over the next year? Review the households currently participating in your curbside program and where they are located.
  • Are some drop-off locations much more successful than others?
  • For your curbside program, does it appear that many households in your community already have bins or carts and participate but just not diligently, or are there few bins or carts on the street?
  • In the case of drop-off locations, do you get a sense that few people know they exist?

Thinking through these areas will help you better understand where you need to focus your greatest efforts.

And don’t be afraid to make your goals public. Through Re-TRAC, you (or someone in your community) should have access to monthly data that can help you determine your community’s progress. Use our template press release and report progress or the need for improvement regularly to your local media. We recommend doing this every three months or so.

Tracking Tons Collected

Almost every community has access to data on the tons collected over a set period of time. Not every community, however fully maximizes the use of this data. Georgia’s use of Re-TRAC, in conjunction with the statewide campaign, makes it easier than ever before to truly review your data and use it to make smart decisions. Use the data to recognize quickly what is and is not working in your program.  

For example:

  • Do your summer months tend to be a stronger time for collection?  
  • Does recycling spike after Earth Day or America Recycles Day?
  • Does rain or severe weather impact recycling?
  • Did a surge in new residents result in increased or decreased recycling?

This knowledge can help you better time education activities.  

Not sure exactly what data to ask for? In an ideal world, you would be collecting data on:

  • Tons per month by commodity
  • Value of each of these commodities by month
  • Comparison to previous months and year prior to help analyze trends and weed out seasonal impacts.

When It Is Time for a New Contract
When your MRF contract is up for renewal, use it to your advantage. Don’t feel pressured to simply dust off the same contract language used for the last 5 or even 20 years. Below are some (there are many more out there!) elements to consider for your next contract:

  • Reporting Frequency and Content – Data collection can be one of the most valuable components for understanding your recycling program and community. Make sure it includes a breakdown by route or neighborhood (for curbside) so you can evaluate high- and low-performing areas. Ideally, this information would be received monthly. Now that the state has access to Re-TRAC, encourage them to utilize this tool so you can be assured you will get the data in a user-friendly manner.
  • A Revenue Share – In most cases, a revenue share provides a way for you to earn money from the sale of your recyclables. Remember, while the market might be at a low right now, it’s not likely to last. When times are good, you earn more money when materials are collected, providing an instant incentive for all parties to increase participation.  
  • Funded or Partially Funded Education Efforts – Some contracts include an item that states that the MRF will be responsible for some education. Consider what would work best for you. Would you prefer that the MRF help pay for some advertising or printing costs utilizing the statewide campaign materials? Just ensure that no matter who is doing the educating, residents are receiving consistent messages and information about your recycling program.  
  • Bin Orders – If your MRF is tasked with handling bin/cart requests, ask for regular reports on orders so you can gauge the immediate impact of marketing efforts.  

What Does It Cost?
It costs almost nothing to measure and track your program. But it could cost everything if you do not.

Re-TRAC is offered to most communities/MRF operators at no cost. You should utilize the tool to its fullest. If you have questions about Re-TRAC, please contact Kenny Dove at DCA.

You can also set up and use your own tools to track set-out counts, Web traffic, bin requests, etc. These tools cost almost nothing, other than perhaps someone’s time every month to input numbers and do a quick analysis.

However, it could cost you FAR more if you do nothing. Without measurement, how can you:

  • Say your program is meeting/exceeding goals?
  • Justify investment in your program?
  • Analyze routes?
  • Make your operations more efficient?
  • Ensure your haulers/MRF are delivering on your contract?
  • Report on success of the statewide campaign?
  • And the list goes on and on….

The bottom line is: measure what you can. It will pay off for you.

What Else Should I Measure?
In addition to the hard data, there are other items that are important to gauging success and helping better understand and shape your education efforts. These include:

  • Bin or cart set-out rates
  • Bin or cart orders
  • Web site traffic
  • Phone calls
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Media coverage (quality and quantity)

Where possible, measure these elements and match them against your education efforts to help understand which activities are the most beneficial. For example, did you notice a significant increase in many of the variables right at the same time you put up billboards? Did that increase then translate to higher recycling volumes? Or did you notice a change only in phone calls and Web site traffic, but no actual increase in volume collected? Knowledge is power. Use it to help you make smarter decisions and wiser investments.