California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Diversion Study Guide

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Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Determine the goal of the diversion study

After determining the need for conducting a diversion study, the jurisdiction should define all intended uses for the information. For example, a diversion study can focus on gathering data necessary to calculate the new base year. It can also focus on identifying future potential waste prevention and recycling opportunities. The specific uses for the data largely determine the scope of the diversion study project. This is an important step because the more precisely the data needs and uses are defined, the better the data-related time and cost expenditures of the jurisdiction can be controlled.

An important design consideration is how extensive to make the study.

  • Data limits must be established depending upon the informational needs of the users.
  • If a new diversion study is only done to quantify base-year diversion for the waste diversion requirement measurement, it may not be necessary to collect more diversion data than an amount showing that the jurisdiction has met the diversion requirement.

Another factor to consider is the level of detail.

If the jurisdiction is interested in evaluating its diversion programs, then the data will need to be more comprehensive.

  • The diversion study could capture current and potential diversion activities. Many local jurisdictions use “integrated technical assistance” (the U.S. EPA term for full-service technical assistance) in the form of on-site waste reduction and recycling audits.

If the jurisdiction conducts this level of diversion audit, then they will also need to develop an adequate assistance program to support the follow-up to businesses, government agencies, and the public.

Identify the amount of time needed to conduct the study

The total time required to design and implement a diversion study generally depends on the:

  • Amount and type of information requested.
  • Chosen survey method.
  • Number of survey participants and respondents.

Staff time is usually the largest cost component in a diversion study project. However, some time costs are constant. For example, designing a survey instrument, or running a computer analysis program, takes roughly the same amount of time regardless of the number of cases in the sample. Typically, you can anticipate two to eight hours for designing and/or modifying an existing survey instrument. Some jurisdictions may involve local task forces or advisory committees, which can expand the staff time due to review, comment, and revisions.

The time required for collecting initial  information on residential programs, franchise hauler data, etc., can vary. On average, plan on spending 30 to 40 hours to compile this data. The amount of time required will increase depending upon the jurisdiction’s ability to easily access the information. In situations where there are no franchise haulers or jurisdiction-operated programs, the data may take longer to acquire.

The amount of time for each survey will vary, depending upon the size and complexity of the business, as well as how much diversion activity is taking place. For small businesses, a survey can be completed in 10 to 30 minutes. For larger, more complex businesses, one to three hours may be required. Other costs are highly design-related. A full-site audit at one large business can take an entire day. In general, budget an estimated total staff time of two to four hours for each completed survey form collected and analyzed.

In one medium-sized jurisdiction with franchise haulers, the total time required to complete the diversion study, which included 150 to 200 business audits, was 500 to 600 total hours. The total time does not include preparing the final report and Base-Year Modification Certification sheet.

Identify available resources to conduct the study

For most jurisdictions, the major constraint of the study will be the human and financial resources available for the project. While this guide can assist in developing a cost-effective study, the overall budget and time frame will largely determine the extent and quality of the data and the approach to data gathering. Some typical costs involved in conducting diversion measurements are:

  • Staffing and supporting resources for the project (e.g., payroll, space, equipment, etc.).
  • Recruiting and training for permanent and temporary staff workers (e.g., volunteers from the community, student interns from local universities, local task force members, and nonprofit organizations).
  • Data collecting (e.g., labor, telephone, transportation, survey design, etc.).
  • Maintaining confidentiality of records.
  • Managing and analyzing data (e.g., data entry, verification, analysis, peer review, etc.).
  • Preparing reports (e.g., develop analysis, conclusions, and recommendations).
  • Providing feedback to audited businesses. (Some haulers provide program assistance and can identify exemplary diversion programs for possible awards by the jurisdiction.)

Each jurisdiction is unique, and effort and costs may differ to obtain similar information. Much of the expense will depend upon factors such as the level of cooperation from recyclers and businesses and the nature of franchise agreements/contractual obligations. Care must always be taken to ensure adequate quality of the diversion data, particularly to avoid double counting of materials.

Assess the characteristics of community

It is essential to be knowledgeable about the community’s characteristics prior to designing the diversion study methodology. Becoming familiar with the community’s makeup and existing programs will indicate where to focus primary resources during the diversion study. Referencing the CalRecycle’s profiles database may be a useful source of demographic and waste management information.  As part of assessing the community’s characteristics, consider the following:

  • Determine the percentage of the waste stream that is residential and the percentage of the waste stream that is non-residential. This information can often be obtained from the jurisdiction’s waste hauler(s).
  • Assess hauler information. Does the community have one hauler or many? Are haulers required to provide diversion tonnage reports?
  • Survey haulers to assess major diversion programs.
  • Review residential and non-residential programs in CalRecycle’s Planning Annual Report Information System (PARIS) database.
  • Conduct site visits of residential and non-residential programs to identify which programs to survey.
  • Identify dominant non-residential generators in the jurisdiction. Are there similar types of generators? If so, do these dominant generators have diversion programs in place? Are the programs run through the hauler or are they run in-house?

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Last updated: September 8, 2009
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