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Development of Strategies to Overcome Barriers to Plastics Recycling in Fairfax County, Virginia (Mobil Chemical Company)

As part of an assignment to identify barriers to plastics recycling in Fairfax County and assist Mobil in developing strategies to overcome those barriers, GBB surveyed local environmental groups, the Chairman of the County Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Recycling, and selected County staff regarding their attitudes toward plastics recycling (as opposed to legislation designed to ban certain plastic products). Local retail grocery store managers were also contacted to identify customer preference profiles regarding plastic versus paper grocery bags. Factors influencing the use of plastic grocery sacks were also identified.

GBB developed a public attitude survey to be administered to interested County residents at a County Earth Day 1990 Fair; the survey gauged respondent knowledge about the recyclability of plastics, quantities of plastics in the waste stream, and interest in participating in plastics recycling efforts. Key local waste haulers and recyclers were contacted to determine their attitudes toward plastic recycling and their perceived incentives/disincentives to recover and market plastic materials.

The results of these data-gathering activities were compiled and analyzed, along with a discussion of the County’s existing waste management structure, to form the basis for discussion of the barriers to plastic recycling in the County. GBB developed strategies for Mobil to help overcome those local barriers and become an even better “corporate citizen” in Fairfax County. Those suggested strategies ranged from the development of an in-house recycling program to support of a local regional materials processing facility. In addition, GBB recommended that Mobil contact a grocery store chain to establish plastic grocery bag recycling capacity in Fairfax County.

In addition to the plastics recycling work, GBB also prepared a special presentation for selected Mobil facilities managers about office paper recycling. The presentation outlined strategies for assessing Mobil’s waste streams; developing a collection system; coordinating with maintenance staff; assessing market conditions and arranging for markets; providing employee education and motivation; and assessing program success.