Needs Improvement

Waste stream diversion rate


The target for recycling diversion is set at 27%. This is a stretch target.


This measure captures blue cart vs. green cart residential curbside collections. Though the Department puts effort into this area, it is difficult to achieve significant improvements without the necessary resources in place. A more effective approach would include dedicated staffing for doing education, outreach, marketing, communication, research for finding additional markets and opportunities to effectively divert additional materials from the garbage waste stream, and implementation of those opportunities. Current staff have taken on additional duties to do some of this work at times when capacity allowed it. There have been some initiatives, large and small, that have made or are expected to make some difference. 

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 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.  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.  

Fiscal year 2017-18 showed a slight improvement over previous years, 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". More efforts in this area are needed, but the Department currently does not have the resources to undertake a sustained effort to combat contamination. The pandemic also resulted in more residential garbage being generated between March and June, thus decreasing the diversion rate. This has continued into FY 21. 

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 FY22. 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. The Department currently does not have staff that are specifically dedicated to education and outreach, or researching, finding and implementing new diversion options. Currently several staff members handle portions of these duties along with their regular duties, so there is not a sustained effort. SWM will require additional resources to make a significant difference in this measure.

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