A select number of California cities are taking advantage of a fresh environmental stability program that rewards proper recycling techniques.

“Recycle Rewards” is Waste Management’s incentive-based contest that educates customers on proper recycling, as well as to increase recycling participation in local communities.

The program awards businesses,  multi-family dwellings and residents. It aims to decrease improper disposal by educating the public on items that should or should not be placed in recycling containers.  Each month a winner from each municipality is selected, and awarded a cash prize, and advertising space in a local publication or Chamber of Commerce newsletter.

Justin Caporusso, Waste Management’s Communications Manager, said the main goal of “Recycle Rewards” is not just to recycle, but reduce contamination through proper recycling.

“The program has proven to be a great partnership between Waste Management and our local municipalities,” Caporusso said.

“Recycle Rewards” contests have been implemented in various municipalities, including the Cities of Lodi (residential), Chico (commercial) and West Sacramento (commercial). Waste Management will soon launch two more rewards programs for participating business customers in the cities of Rancho Cordova and Citrus Heights.

In the Rancho Cordova and Citrus Heights contests, businesses and commercial collection customers will be selected at random each month to receive an evaluation of their recycling container.

Each month, a business customer’s name will be drawn and a Waste Management representative will perform an on-site visual audit of the contestant’s commercial recycling container. Once the audit is complete and the recycling container is deemed free of contamination, the contestant will be awarded a cash prize and the change to advertise in a local publication.

Caporusso said local mayors and city councils have taken pride in highlighting the winners of the program.

In each of the contests, customers fill out an entry form through e-mail, facsimile or by walking into their local Waste Management District (in municipalities that have a contest only).

Linda Herman, the Administrative Waste Manager of Chico, is pleased with the program.

“It encourages commercial recycling,” Herman said. “As of now, it is not mandatory for businesses to recycle in the city. The program encourages business to recycle by rewarding them.”

Herman is responsible for overseeing the city’s sustainability projects. Herman said she appreciates that the program encourages businesses to look at other things they can do for the environment.

“We like to see more and more business get involved,” Herman said. “It is good to give kudos to businesses that are doing things right.”

The Chico program, which began May 1, will continue through April 2010.

Louis Dettorre can be reached at ldettorre@publicceo.com