Rethink Waste Update


The Rethink Waste Plan was adopted by City Council in October 2017 to guide future efforts related to recycling and materials management. The plan included the following three-phases to implement the plan’s vision:

Phase 1: Years 1-3 

·         Institutionalize a materials management framework for decision making that emphasizes actions that reduce impacts across the life-cycle of materials 

·         Implement foundational programs and policies 

·         Establish accurate baseline metrics 


Phase 2: Years 4-5 

·         Reevaluate goals 

·         Develop a long-term strategic plan with policies and initiatives that help Flagstaff achieve waste prevention and diversion goals. 


Phase 3: Years 6 and beyond 

·         Implement the policies and initiatives outlined in the strategic plan. 


We are currently entering the final year of Phase 1 and have had success in implementing key initiatives outlined in the plan.



One of the biggest areas of opportunity for increasing waste diversion exists at multifamily complexes where many lack recycling infrastructure. Last year, the City adopted a new policy that requires all new commercial and multifamily development to create a Materials Management Plan that includes how they plan to deal with waste and recyclables on the property. This policy has helped the City ensure the future developments allocate adequate space for recycling infrastructure and encourage property managers to adopt best-practices.


With an increase in Solid Waste fees this year, the City secured permanent funding for recycling outreach programming and staff. This will allow the City to expand the reach of education and outreach efforts to decrease contamination and increase recycling rates.

The City also secured funding needed to implement Volumetric Pricing, which will create additional smaller trash cart size options for residents for a lower price. This program model, which creates an economic incentive to decrease waste and increase recycling, is a fundamental piece of successful recycling programs across the country.


It also continues to get easier to recycle in public spaces. In 2018, the City installed recycling bins throughout downtown near Heritage Square and Wheeler Park, as well as high-traffic areas in City parks.

City staff have also been collaborating with local builders to pilot some construction and demolition waste diversion efforts. As one example, the demolition of the existing building to make way for the new Municipal Courthouse will see all the clean concrete diverted through use as alternative daily cover at the landfill.

Data and Metrics

A focus of this first phase of the Rethink Waste Plan is reviewing how the City manages its waste and recycling data. Recently we’ve updated how the City’s diversion rate is calculated, which you can see below. If seen previous diversion rates, you may notice that these new rates are lower. This is due the fact that we are now properly accounting for the non-recyclable material that residents are placing in their recycling bins, but ultimately sorted out and delivered to the landfill as trash.

diversion rate table.JPG

There is still work to be done calculating more accurate metrics. For example, the City does not have access to the waste and recycling data from private haulers that collect from some commercial and multifamily properties. Without this data, the City cannot calculate an accurate waste generation per capita figure, which is what we will use as a baseline to evaluate future efforts.

Upcoming Initiatives

In order to solve this lack of private hauler data, we are looking into potential regulations on private haulers that operate within Flagstaff. Many cities in Arizona and nationally, require private haulers to report the tons of material they collect, as well as ensure that they have the proper insurance and provide their clients with the appropriate recycling information. Staff will be proposing recommendations to City Council this fall.

Additionally, we plan to rollout a pilot version of Volumetric Pricing sometime in the next year, as well as start doing community-wide outreach to introduce the program to Flagstaff residents. Ultimately the City plans to rollout the program to all of Flagstaff in 2020-21. When that time comes, we hope that Master Recyclers will help spread the word and increase participation.

If you have any questions about the work that we have been doing and plan to do in the future, please contact Dylan at