By Corey Troiani, DFW Program Director
The Dallas 365 Dashboard presents a great opportunity for the city to relay data on its progress in many policy areas, but if the city is serious about tracking its progress on waste reduction, then it needs to measure the numbers that matter.
With regard to solid waste and recycling services, the Dallas 365 Dashboard tracks two sets of data: 1. Tons of residential recyclables collected (total weight collected from blue recycling bins in neighborhoods), and 2. Missed refuse and recycling collection per 1,000 service opportunities (rate of missed collection of your trash and recycling). Nothing on the Dallas 365 Dashboard gives us any indication of our progress on reducing our waste generation outlined in the city’s Zero Waste Plan.
While it is important to measure residential recycling rates in single-family neighborhoods, focusing on only “Blue Bin” recycling without context creates an illusion of progress. Here’s the numbers that were left out:
- Multi-family residential trash – 529,000 tons per year
- Commercial, and other non-residential trash – 1,251,000 tons per year
- Single-family residential trash (gray bins) – 233,000 tons per year
- Single-family residential bulk and brush waste – 150,000+ tons per year
Add all of that up and we’re looking at 2,163,000 tons per year that is completely ignored by the city’s Dashboard. Put another way, the city is tracking less than 3% of its overall trash and recycling weight.
Now, here’s the worst part. According to the 2013 Dallas Zero Waste Plan, we are supposed to have a citywide recycling rate of 40% by the year 2020. The annual goal on the Dashboard sets the bar—57,615 tons—far too low for blue bin recyclables. According to the city’s own statistics from 2015, the Dashboard goal represents status-quo growth in residential recycling.
I would argue that the annual residential “blue bin” recycling tonnage goal should be 75% higher, or about 100,826 tons. Feel free to check my math below:
On February 26, 2018, the Sanitation Director Kelly High told city officials that the current residential diversion rate is 20%. About three-fifths of that comes from the blue bins and the remaining two-fifths comes from brush and yard trimmings collected from the curb. The Sanitation Department is working on improvements to the Bulk & Brush collection program to allow them to separate more brush material. They expect these improvements will boost the residential recycling rate from 20% to 31%. (Great—let’s do it!) That leaves a gap of 9% that would need to be fulfilled by an increase in blue cart materials in order to meet our overall 40% recycling goal (see chart). To close that gap, we’d need a 75% increase in current tons collected in the blue carts, an annual goal of 100,826 tons.
All of that said, the Dallas 365 Dashboard would better reflect our Zero Waste Goals by comparing recycled tons with landfilled tons, and representing our goal as a recycling rate percentage. This goal should reflect our Zero Waste Plan benchmark: 40% recycling by 2020. The Dashboard should do this not only for single-family residential recycling and waste, but also for commercial, multi-family and institutional sectors, which are the source of more than 80% of our overall waste.
I fully support the stated purpose of the Dallas 365 Dashboard, but its data and objectives must reflect the actual goals of our city. Let’s fix it.
DFW Program Director