Needs Improvement

Waste stream diversion rate


The target for recycling diversion is set at 30%. This is a stretch target.


This measure captures blue cart vs. green cart. In July 2017, Solid Waste Management (SWM) rolled out the "Put Your Trash on a Diet" campaign, and combined resources with several other municipalities to advertise recycling in the Indy Week publication during the holidays. Additionally, SWM worked with Time Warner Cable / Spectrum on commercial advertisements that ran from January 2017 to February 2017. Finally, SWM worked with the Office of Performance & Innovation (OPI) and the Center for Advanced Hindsight associated with Duke University on a project to see if recycling behavior can be positively affected. In July 2018, the same efforts were undertaken and more educational materials were distributed. In July 2019, another option was provided for residents to drop off textiles at the Waste Disposal and Recycling Center. 

Fiscal year 2017-18 showed a slight improvement, with the diversion rate exceeding 25% for the first time. FY 2018-19 results were virtually identical to the previous year. This is somewhat expected as packaging continues to get lighter for recyclables, and campaigns to not put improper items in the recycling carts were undertaken. FY2019-20 was lower for a number of reasons. The costs of recycling put added emphasis on cleaning up the recycling stream. Contamination is a national problem, and Durham has been working with other local partners, the State of NC, and the recycling processor, Sonoco, to put out information so that residents "recycle right". The pandemic also resulted in more garbage being generated between March and June, thus decreasing the diversion rate. 

The department has been working to add food waste to the compost program. The necessary Type 4 permit was issued by the State in January 2019.The contract with the City's contractor, Atlas Organics, was amended in 2020 to include biosolids and make provisions for food waste. The pandemic halted some of the plans, but there will be a pilot program introducing food to the composting process with a larger roll out of a collection program if all goes well.  

In late 2018, the City began taking textiles at the Convenience Center. A previous study found that a significant portion of the waste stream was comprised because of textiles. As opportunities to provide diversion options become available, the City will continue to explore and use those opportunities as appropriate.

Next Steps

The department will be working on diverting some food waste from the garbage stream which will improve this measure as there will be a decrease in overall garbage. The City's contractor who handles composting of yard waste and biosolids will be ready to start testing incorporating food waste into the mix sometime during FY21. The department is currently exploring options for providing diversion options for other materials as well including more options for textiles, possible options for mattresses, and other diversion opportunities.

Status Indicators: On Target On Target | Close to Target Close to Target | Needs Improvement Needs Improvement | Target Pending Target Pending