A public space recycling program serves high traffic areas that fall outside the coverage of other diversion programs. These places include: parks, stadiums, transit hubs, shopping centers, along streets and at special event sites. Usually these programs can be integrated into existing public space waste services and/or residential recycling programs. Coordination among multiple city or county departments and agencies is often required.  


More than half of American cities already have residential recycling programs, making it relatively simple for these programs to be expanded into parks and other public spaces. Currently, the volume of recyclables discarded in trash receptacles in parks and public spaces represents only a small percentage of total recycleable materials. Such programs are also valuable for their educational and behavioral reinforcement impacts.    


Public spaces are generally spread out across a city making dedicated collection routes impractical. It may be best to incorporate collection from public spaces into residential pick-up routes.  These locations also tend to deliver highly variable volumes and contaminated waste streams - this is a result of the large number of contributors, the nature of the locations, and a lack of public understanding. As a result, cities may wish to begin by selecting locations and events that minimize these challenges, and a comprehensive public space recycling program should only be attempted by municipalities that already have a very strong recycling program.       


  • Make a good impression with visitors, and attract new businesses and residents
  • Act as a teaching tool to increase participation rates of residential programs
  • Recycling materials takes less energy than processing new materials, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, prevents environmental degradation that results from processing new materials, and saves landfill space
  • In some instances, recycling programs are cheaper than traditional waste removal


  • Without proper public education and monitoring, recycling bins can become contaminated with waste making it impossible for haulers to accept them
  • Off-season production may be significantly lower and require different collection practices


  • Sanitation/waste services or department
  • Parks department
  • Transportation department and agencies
  • Independent haulers



Primary cost drivers for public space recycling programs include costs of recycling receptacles, new collection vehicles or modifications to existing vehicles, and hauler fees.