Feet on the Street


Do you know what to throw? Placing the wrong items in recycling is a big problem. We want to help so we're launching Feet on the Street, a "curbside checkup team".

This team will visit recycling carts in the public right of way and check what items were placed in recycling carts.

The “Feet on The Street Team” will visit over 50,000 recycling customers in Grand Rapids. We'll review what items are in the recycling carts.
If wrong items are in the cart, residents will receive an "Oops" tag. The tag will let you know what is wrong. An orange Oops tag will be for minor issues and we will still service the cart. A red Oops tag will be for a more important issue and we will not service the cart. If you receive two red Oops tags in a row we will collect the cart and temporarily suspend service.
Here's a rundown of this project:

Late August

We will gather samples from the recycling trucks and see the type and amount of contamination in the carts.

Early September

Information card mailing to all Grand Rapids recycling customers. The card will remind them of items that should go in the cart and which are not allowed in the cart.

Mid-September thru Mid-November

The City kicks off the “Feet on The Street” initiative. mobilizing specially-trained personnel to conduct curbside cart observations throughout all City neighborhoods. Residents who have wrong items in their recycling carts will receive an "Oops" tag listing the wrong items.
The first time, we will leave a tag and empty the cart. If we find trash or yard waste, the cart will not be emptied. Public Works will empty the cart on the next regularly scheduled service day if the wrong material is gone. If you receive two red Oops tags we will collect the cart and temporarily suspend service.

Need to know what you can and can't recycle or how to dispose of hazardous materials? Check the link below.

Reimagine Trash

What is the “Feet on the Street” program?

The “Feet on the Street” (FOTS) program is an anti-contamination program developed by The Recycling Partnership (TRP) that is focused on optimizing the recycling system in your community. The program encompasses a combination of recycling education and recycling inspection at the curb to help drive positive behavioral change that will improve the recycling for the good of the community.

Why are we doing this program?

For most of the early twenty-first century, China was the main destination for the world's scrap material. This resulted from a combination of factors, including the growing need for metal, paper and plastics in China's expanding industry, lax environmental regulations, cheap labor, and inexpensive shipping using containers that would otherwise be returned to China empty.

In 2017, that situation abruptly changed when China announced its ‘’National Sword’’ program, which banned many scrap imports and imposed strict quality standards of less than 1% contamination. As a result, the US recycling industry is responding by investing in better sorting equipment and focusing on cleaning up recycling streams, not necessarily to meet the National Sword standards, but to meet the requirements needed for increased use domestically.

Locally, we have seen an increase in the amount of contaminated recycling and we need to do our part in improving the quality of material.

Is Contamination really a big deal?

Contamination increases the cost to the recycling system in labor, time and increased safety hazards. Communities that focus on anti-contamination programs for their community can see benefits to their recycling program such as:

  • Increased the capture of quality recyclables
  • Increase the value of recyclables materials
  • Increased the savings related to improved processing and decrease in labor, downtime and fees

How will the FOTS program work?

Existing recyclable materials will be separated, sorted, and inspected to see what kind of contaminated material residents are placing in their carts.

Residents will receive a Recycling Information Card via direct mail. A couple weeks later quality Inspectors will then check recycling carts city-wide and tag carts found with the presence of the identified top issue contaminants with an “Oops” tag.

Residents receiving an “Oops” tag may have their cart rejected for service depending on the amount and type of contamination. The resident is asked to remove the contaminant before the next service day.

My cart was not serviced, will they come back to empty the cart?

No. If you find the cart turned around with an “oops” tag on the cart, that means there was too much contaminated material and we could not service the cart. The tag will tell you what was wrong; if you make this correction, we will service the cart on the next regularly scheduled collection day.

Why are people looking in my cart?

Quality inspectors will walk the routes starting early in the morning. They will look through the cart for contaminants and leave a tag if necessary.

Is this safe with the current pandemic?

Tagging staff will wear all appropriate personal protective equipment while walking the routes to minimize any risk related to COVID-19.

Will this really make a difference?

Yes. Other communities that have done a similar program have reported a reduction in the amount of contamination; anywhere from 25% to 45%.

What items will prevent my cart from being serviced?

If trash, yard waste, food waste, construction material, or bagged recyclable are found, we will not service the cart.

Items that may be recyclable that we do not take:

  • Plastic bags
  • Styrofoam
  • Batteries
  • Shredded paper
  • Wood

These are examples of materials that should not be in the cart. We will still service the cart the 1st time, but will leave a tag educating residents so they understand the error.