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State Capitol gets recycling makeover
Clear signage, stately bins boost recycling success
Recycling bin at the end of a stately Capitol hallway
In 2015, the Department of Personnel and Administration applied for a grant to jump-start the state Capitol building’s aging recycling program, which discouraged would-be recyclers with confusing signage and mismatched bins. 
The application asked for one-year funding to buy new bins deemed stately enough to be stationed along the Capitol’s gleaming marble walls without violating strict aesthetic guidelines. The work also would include an audit of the building’s waste streams, a campaign to educate Capitol workers on recycling, and preparation of a guidance document on recycling for other state buildings. With $70,556 secured through a Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity grant, DPA hired two experienced consultants, Anne Peters of Gracestone Inc. and John Shepherd of Shepherd Sustainability, to carry out the work. It seemed all systems were go for a successful rehabilitation of the existing program. 
But timing is everything, according to the maxim, and an unfortunate delay in the launch led to a bumpy start. The new program rolled out in April 2016, during the last month of a politically charged legislative session, when the Capitol was crowded with legislators, lobbyists and others involved in the process of lawmaking. 
“It wasn’t an optimal time,” Peters said. “We could have generated more attention for the rollout at another time when lawmakers and staff were less slammed with their duties.” 
Despite steering the program through awkward timing, difficulty contracting a new waste hauler when the previous company went out of business, and restrictions on signs showing users what went in each  bin, Peters and Shepherd now have data demonstrating success. Their data-gathering began when Shepherd spent two days “waste peering” in September 2015 and found 65 percent of items in the trash were recyclable. By April 2016, that figure had dropped to 34 percent. ... more