Parks, beaches, and lakes provide a vital space for community activities in a city. They are the sites of special events, everyday physical activity, and recreation and can vary in size from a city block to many acres. Such sprawling spaces need a carefully considered recycling plan to effectively keep the area clean and minimize waste. The management of parks, beaches, and lakes can involve coordination between many different scales of government with parks and recreation areas managed by agencies at the city, county, or federal level. Considering the connection to nature that parks offer city residents, a recycling plan is a necessary component of promoting a sense of environmental stewardship within a park or recreation area.
Partnerships between government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private companies as well as clear jurisdictional boundaries are essential components of implementing recycling plans at parks, beaches, and lakes. No matter what the configuration of stakeholders, it is essential that a project has buy-in from all partners at the appropriate organizational level. In some cases, the responsible party for managing a park and implementing a recycling plan will not be a city agency. In Central Park in New York City, the Central Park Conservancy, a not-for-profit organization, has a contract with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to manage the park. The Conservancy is continually adding new recycling bins and also focuses on their behind-the-scenes recycling. Parks that are managed by county agencies are also common. Marymoor Park in Redmond, Washington is a county managed park that puts on summer concerts every year in partnership with a local radio station. With a carbon neutral theme, the county and the radio station have partnered on a very effective recycling program. A combination of volunteers and park staff collect garbage and recyclable materials following the event. Aside from recycling and composting bins and toters, the park has no other recycling infrastructure on site. Haulers then pick-up the recyclable material. The program is effective due to having high-level actors on board and effective outreach and training of staff and volunteers.
The volume of waste and recycling can fluctuate wildly in a recreation area depending on whether it is a weekday, a weekend or when a large one-day event takes place. Most waste that is created in a park or recreation area is brought in by park-goers. When parks require permits for certain activities, these permits can make recycling while in the park a requirement. Recycling bin placement is important. Bins should always be placed next to garbage cans in an easily accessed and high-traffic area. Some park agencies are implementing innovative receptacles at public parks and beaches.
Alpha Underground Containers are very tall bins that are dug 5 feet into the ground which decreases the frequency of necessary pickups and also makes public waste and recycling collection more sanitary. Recycling promotion and education is also an important component of a recycling program at a park, beach, or lake. Prior to the visit, an informative website can make park-goers aware of recycling opportunities and guidelines. Depending on the size of the park, brochures and bags for recycling can be handed out at the entrance and clear signage throughout the park can help people recycle. An effective recycling plan can lower disposal costs and even generate revenue for parks and recreation areas. Recyclable materials drop-off centers can create revenue to help fund community park initiatives as well as help purchase sports equipment for youth leagues. Since the inception of its parks recycling program, San Diego has been very successful with this strategy diverting 15,000 tons of recyclable material from local landfills and generating $820,872.