Pittsburgh conducted an experiment to test a new recycling scheme and is using the findings to roll out a city-wide scheme to improve recycling and move towards zero waste.

The Northside Bin Initiative is a pilot project that distributed approximately 1,100 recycling containers to residents served by one recycling route in the Northside area of Pittsburgh. It was designed to test the impacts of converting the collection system from bagged set-outs to provisioned bins.

25% increase in recycling rates during the project

Cities100 – 2017

During the course of the project, data was gathered to analyze the impacts of the city’s proposed new approach for recycling collection. The information included: impacts to fleet, staff time, routing, finances, changes to recycling participation rates, material quality and contamination levels, and resident feedback. The main goal of the program was to reduce waste going to landfill, but the city also wanted to determine the baseline recycling participation percentage in the population and educate as many residents as possible about the benefits of recycling and waste reduction.

The challenge

Waste production and collection in Pittsburgh is responsible for more than 40,000 tons of CO2 equivalent annually. Increasing diversion rates and reducing landfill waste can reduce emissions from both the waste and transportation sectors.


Economic Every ton of materials recycled instead of sent to landfill saves Pittsburgh $19. When the bins are rolled out city-wide, a 15% increase in recycling is estimated to save the city $74,000 annually.

Social Pittsburgh employed door-to-door resident outreach and education to increase recycling participation. The use of recycling bins also improved the cleanliness of the routes.

Health Reducing trips to landfill will lower particulate levels and improve air quality for Pittsburgh, which is ranked in the top 10 most polluted cities in the USA.

About Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is a city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the United States. As of 2017, a total population of 305,704 lives within the city limits, making it the 63rd-largest city in the U.S. Pittsburgh is known as both “the Steel City” for its more than 300 steel-related businesses, and as the “City of Bridges” for its 446 bridges. The city features 30 skyscrapers, two inclines, a pre-revolutionary fortification and the Point State Park at the confluence of the rivers. In 2015, Pittsburgh was listed among the “eleven most livable cities in the world”.

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