Blue Bins Signal “Greener” Future

The San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department is learning that park recycling is not a case of “build it and they will come.”

San Antonio parks staff designed the blue bins for the department’s recycling program. Photo Courtesy of San Antonio Parks and Recreation


Simply placing recycling bins in parks isn’t enough. The success of the program rests on an education and marketing push that begins before the placement of bins and continues throughout the implementation of the recycling initiative.

Beginning with a pilot program at one regional park in fiscal year 2010, the city’s recycling program has grown to 107 park locations, according to Clean and Green Operations Manager Krystal Strong, who oversees the program.

By the end of this fiscal year, recycling will be available at 74 percent of the city’s more than 14,000 acres of park.

Getting A Good Return

The challenge, however, has been in teaching park patrons how to properly recycle.

“Our biggest challenge is contamination, with food and pet waste getting mixed in with the aluminum cans, glass containers, and plastics that are recyclable,” Strong explains. “Initially we weren’t getting a good return on our efforts.”

To educate employees, the department collaborated with the city’s Solid Waste Department to bring in its recycling education coordinator for training sessions.

Early public-education efforts centered specifically on the pilot program, conducted in a large regional park in a neighborhood that had recently started automated residential recycling.

The department included a park recycling flier in English and Spanish in 8,000 recycling bins delivered to residents by the city’s Solid Waste Department.

The department also contracted with a private vendor, who used a three-wheeled bike with a large billboard promoting the recycling project, to travel through the park on high-volume weekend days and holidays.

Workers sort through the trash to make sure the recyclables are “clean”. Photo Courtesy of San Antonio Parks and Recreation


Known as a ped-ad, this advertising technique gave the cyclist the opportunity to talk to park patrons and hand out printed materials in English and Spanish, water bottles, and bracelets featuring the campaign: It’s Your Park–Recycle!

A Broader Scope

This effort proved helpful in the pilot program because of the limited venue. As the program expanded and a broader focus was needed, staff collaborated with the department’s Volunteer Services staff members to develop a group of volunteers to focus on recycling education throughout the parks designated for recycling bins.

Additionally, the department’s public-relations staff created a public-service video in both English and Spanish, which aired on the city’s public-access channel, as well as on area cable channels. The videos can also be viewed on the department’s website, YouTube, and its Facebook page.

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