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Virginia Trash Hauler Gets Creative To Increase Recycling

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About half of all Americans recycle on a daily basis, but one Virginia trash hauler has found a way to boost that number using advanced technology and clever marketing.

Tidewater Fiber Corporation, or TFC, picks up trash from more than 400,000 homes in eastern Virginia. In the early days, just 30 percent of its customers recycled, but today more than 70 percent do, and the company is so proud that it made a video of its operation.

The video explains how trash of all kinds is dumped on the tipping floor, and then carried by conveyor belts to be separated using magnets, blowers and an optical scanner. This single-stream process spares customers the effort of separating their own trash. Project manager Amelia Baker says the company also set-up a rewards program.

"As the recycling truck goes down the street and dumps the cart, it captures the activity of recycling, and if a resident is participating in recycling perks with an online account, they'll get points that log into their account, and then they can trade those points in for rewards or discounts from local businesses," says Baker.

TFC personalized the process with a special mailing that introduced customers to the woman who picked up their trash, telling them a bit about her and why she cares so much about recycling. That seemed to change attitudes.

"They knew that a driver was coming by," she says. "They knew the face of the person, and they could actually think, 'Oh, Tammy's coming by to pick up my recycling,' and not, 'The trash truck is going to be here.'"

In fact, she adds, Tammy has become a friend to some of the folks on her route who often wave and sometimes invite her to stop and have coffee.

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