Increase in Multi-Family Recycling During Boston Pilot Program

October 19, 2020 – A five-month pilot program in multi-family locations in Boston, Mass., sponsored by the Fibre Box Association (FBA),  conducted by Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), and with critical support by the City of Boston, demonstrated an increase in multi-family recycling, specifically an increase with old corrugated containers (OCC) recovery.

The pilot was conducted to test the ability of more frequent, direct, and specific communication practices as well as consistent interactions with building management to increase the recovery of OCC in multi-family residences. The pilot program utilized communication tools including printed handouts delivered to each resident and signage at specific drop-off locations throughout the multi-family buildings.

“With e-commerce growing to $600 billion in 2019 and brick-and-mortar retail on the decline, residential recovery of OCC is critical to securing feedstock to manufacture containerboard and corrugated cardboard boxes. Residential recovery of OCC is currently below 50% and contamination is high when compared to distribution centers and retail,” said Dennis Colley, president and CEO of the FBA.

A baseline audit measuring OCC in the trash and recycling collection bins was conducted in early February 2019, followed by the distribution of communication materials in mid-February, March, and July. A final audit was conducted in July 2019.

The multi-family dwellings consisted of an apartment building containing 200 rental units, and two condominium buildings of 160 and 60 units each. Key findings from the pilot include:

  • Apartment building (#1 location) increased the OCC recovery rate from 46.3% to 89.9%.
  • Condominium collection (#2 location) was already recovering OCC at the rate of 86.3%, but was able to increase to 97.6% during the pilot program timeframe.
  • Condominium collection (#3 location) encountered collection issues. However, some measurements were obtained and indicated a significant increase in OCC recycling at this location.

“This project highlighted the need to communicate with all stakeholders in a multi-family setting – residents, building managers, City of Boston managers, recycling coordinators, and waste and recycling haulers,” said David Refkin, affiliate senior consultant with RRS. “In addition, regular and consistent communications are needed especially in rental communities where residents can change more frequently.”

According to the US Census Bureau, multi-family buildings (buildings with 2 or more units) accounted for approximately 30% of all new privately-owned housing units started in the US in 2018.

“Multi-family dwellings can be a significant contributor to the recovery of valuable materials. The tools developed to increase multi-family recycling in the Boston pilot program can be utilized for other multi-family buildings throughout the United States,” added Refkin.





Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, RRS is a sustainability and recycling consulting firm that strives to create a world where resources are managed to maximize economic and social benefit while minimizing environmental harm. The firm has industry professionals, engineers, economists, technical analysts, and communication specialists who share this vision and possess core strengths in materials and recovery, life cycle management, applied sustainable design, and collaborative action development.



The Fibre Box Association (FBA) is a non-profit trade association that represents North American corrugated packaging manufacturers and strives to grow, protect and enhance the overall well-being of the corrugated industry by providing member-valued programs and services. The association will celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2020.