California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

"Innovations" Case Studies: Serving Diverse Populations with Recycling

Targeting Outreach to Special Audiences

Recycling and solid waste coordinators can increase their communities’ recycling rates by reaching out to diverse populations and tailoring their recycling program to accommodate the recycling needs of diverse populations.

Recycling specialists can use many of their current education and outreach techniques on various populations that may be missed by a general approach. These populations may include residents who speak little or no English, low-income persons, tourists, and students.

Residents Who Speak Little or No English

Many cities have released recycling outreach materials in multilingual format. Some cities have produced duplicate copies of their brochures and marketing materials in different languages. Some have produced specialized outreach material in specific languages other than English. Other cities have included the different languages on each individual outreach piece.

The recycling and/or solid waste office can perform a demographic analysis of its city to determine the locations of those who speak little or no English (including Hispanic and Asian populations). They can then target multilingual outreach to those residents.

Following are some examples of how some communities have spread the word about recycling to their diverse residents.

Bellevue, Wash.

  • Produces its recycling brochures and posters in seven different languages (Russian, Spanish, Korean, Cambodian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese).

El Monte, Calif.

  • Uses bilingual waste auditors to reach its diverse businesses and residents of multifamily units.
  • Distributes a brochure and poster with text in both English and Spanish, side by side, to encourage residents of multifamily buildings to recycle.
  • Has produced three bilingual (Spanish and English) videos on recycling-related issues (business recycling, paper recycling, and household hazardous waste) and has released several bilingual local public service announcements on recycling.
  • Mails its new recycling newsletter to businesses and multifamily units (three times a year).

Monterey Park, Calif.

  • Includes a trilingual advertisement on recycling used motor oil in the city’s quarterly recreation and parks guide.
  • Displays trilingual education booths at various community and multicultural events.
  • Has developed trilingual brochures on bulky items, plastics, and used oil recycling.

Portland, Ore.

Has produced outreach materials in ten different languages. Based on a survey of highly used languages in Portland, recycling officials selected Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Bosnian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Cambodian, and Laotian. Private haulers distribute these translated materials to households. The environmental services department is examining using church services and nonprofit organizations that communicate with refugees-along with English language programs-to distribute translated recycling information.

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San Francisco, Calif.

  • Operates a trilingual hotline that gives residents recycling and source reduction information in Cantonese, English, and Spanish.
  • Places advertisements and articles in English, Chinese, and Spanish neighborhood newspapers.
  • Offers various publications written in three languages. Includes environmental shopping, recycling guides, and 14 directories listing various recycling and reuse organizations.
  • Offers a recycling guide for San Francisco restaurants and hotels in English, Chinese, and Spanish.

San Jose, Calif.

  • Prints most of its brochures and posters in Spanish, Vietnamese, and English. A few brochures are double-sided with English on one side and either Spanish or Vietnamese on the other.
  • Provides one telephone number that Spanish,- Vietnamese,- and English-speaking residents can dial for answers to their recycling questions.
  • Provides trilingual (Spanish, Vietnamese, and English) stickers for residents to place on their recycling containers.
  • Has created television ads in both Spanish and Vietnamese in order to increase participation in recycling, particularly for collection of household hazardous waste and bulky goods.

Sunnyvale, Calif.

  • Prints its stickers, magnets, and labels for its oil recycling program in both English and Spanish.
  • Sends flyers discussing on-site recycling techniques in two languages to all residents. The flyers are printed so that one side is written in English and the other in Spanish.
  • Releases a variety of posters and doorknob hangings on recycling that are printed in English on one side and Spanish on the other.
  • Offers a bilingual recycling hotline to answer recycling questions of both English and Spanish-speaking residents.

Multifamily Residents

In order to reach much of the low-income population in a community, the recycling or solid waste coordinator can undertake an extensive multifamily education and outreach program. Recycling coordinators can direct outreach materials in multiple languages to apartment managers, perform one-on-one contact to facilitate the distribution of materials, and follow up to make sure that the apartment complex has implemented the requested recycling program.

In Sunnyvale, recycling officials encourage managers of multifamily units to distribute flyers about on-site recycling techniques. They are also encouraged to hang posters in common areas.

El Monte conducts an extensive multifamily outreach campaign to reach its 60 percent population that resides in rental units. The program includes:

  • Identifying property managers and owners and conducting individual meetings with them to help them establish and continue their recycling program.
  • Calculating potential collection savings.
  • Helping to overcome any space restrictions.
  • Providing customizable bilingual tenant brochures and flexible bilingual signage.
  • Assisting apartment owners or managers in discussing contracts with their haulers in order to facilitate recycling.

Tourists and Students

Recycling and solid waste coordinators can reach tourist populations by sending multilingual outreach materials to hotels and motels. They can also set up one-on-one outreach with hotel/motel managers for establishing and executing a recycling program. Recycling coordinators can distribute flyers, posters, and other outreach materials throughout community locations where tourists visit. Communities with high tourist populations can clearly label, in multiple languages, all public recycling facilities and containers.

Many colleges have already implemented some form of recycling. Coordinators can establish relationships with colleges in the community and assist the colleges in maximizing their recycling program. They can also help tailor and distribute outreach materials on a continuous basis.

Coordinators can ask the college to help determine the location of students living off-campus and target outreach to these locations more frequently. They can also distribute recycling outreach materials in college-based newspapers and newsletters.

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Last updated: October 2, 2002
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Local Assistance & Market Development: LAMD@calrecycle.ca.gov (916) 341-6199