It takes practice to get good at most things, whether it’s mastering a new exercise routine or learning a new language. After a while, the newness wears off and we build muscle memory. What used to seem complex or awkward becomes second nature.
That’s the challenge with recycling today. When China stopped accepting much of the recycling collected in the United States, a difficult truth emerged: We need to re-learn recycling. The old way of recycling isn’t working; our recycling containers are contaminated with garbage, food and other non-recyclables.
Contamination in the recycling stream is a pressing problem today because recycling standards around the world have changed. It’s more important than ever to put the right materials in the right containers to meet new market requirements and keep our local recycling program strong and healthy.
We can do this by focusing our recycling energy on materials that are most likely to end up as new products, like cardboard and paper, tin and aluminum and plastic bottles, tubs and jugs.
To help build this new muscle memory and clean up recycling in Snohomish County, Waste Management is calling in a special cleanup crew — a team of multilingual college students trained by Waste Management’s award-winning recycling education team.
The Waste Management Recycle Corps intern program places students in Snohomish County each summer to engage with businesses, multi-family communities and whole neighborhoods to teach them how to waste less and recycle right. Waste Management developed the program to support the company’s year-round recycling outreach work and has deployed interns in Snohomish County every summer for the past eight years. The program even won a Gold Excellence Award — one of the highest honors in the recycling industry — from the Solid Waste Association of North America.
To prepare for their work in Snohomish County this summer, the Waste Management interns completed intensive, hands-on job training. With support from recycling experts, they are educating people at local events, providing training at businesses and working directly with managers and tenants in our rapidly expanding multifamily housing communities.
In fact, the interns have the expertise to help property managers create better signage and container placement to take the guesswork and inconvenience out of multifamily recycling.
The Waste Management Recycle Corps interns are also working to break down language barriers that can hinder recycling participation. They’re using their multilingual skills to help make recycling accessible and inclusive for everyone in Snohomish County.
So watch for the Waste Management interns this summer. They’re ready to help you build muscle memory, making recycling in Snohomish County what it should be — easy and fun.
Hannah Scholes is Waste Management’s recycling education and outreach manager. To see what’s recyclable in Snohomish County go to wmnorthwest.com/snohomishcounty/guidelines/recycling.htm.