City and local government agencies are tasked with the difficult job of balancing an area’s environmental health with its economic health. Sustainable growth and thoughtful development are the goals, to be maintained while saving energy and reducing waste. Effective recycling practices are key, but what can local governments do to encourage recycling?
Adaptive reuse—basically recycling a building—saves time, energy, money and resources. It has the added benefit of preserving an area’s cultural heritage. When a government needs to expand, it should find architectural planning services that specialize in adaptive reuse projects. To further encourage adaptive reuse, it can offer tax and permit incentives to private firms who do the same. Land can be adapted and reused, too, as when a reservoir in Sydney, Australia was turned into a public garden.
Governments are often a major consumer in the local economy. As such they should award contracts to and purchase supplies from environmentally responsible companies whenever possible. Recycled goods should make up the majority of items purchased, from copy paper to park benches. Public spaces should have recycling bins placed conveniently by each trash receptacle, emptied frequently to encourage use. Legislatures and regulatory agencies can mandate recycling thresholds for certain industries, and monies paid in enforcement fines can be funneled into recycling programs.
An obvious first step is to implement curbside recycling, especially single-stream residential pickups which have proven to encourage the highest levels of participation. Governments and local media can work together to produce public service ads that inform people where and how to recycle problematic items such as computer monitors and motor oil. More elaborate outreach programs are useful in educating citizens about the importance of recycling. Even better, environmental and ecological education programs should be started in elementary grades and continue through until high school. Start a recycling habit young, and the whole community will reap the rewards for generations to come.