Recently, Baton Rouge, La., Mayor Melvin “Kip” Holden and local recycling officials challenged residents to “CART IT!” Shorthand for “create a recycling tradition,” the campaign was developed to help increase participation in the second year of the city's single-stream curbside recycling program.
Residents responded with a more than 16 percent increase in recyclables collected compared to the previous year.
The city of Baton Rouge and parish of East Baton Rouge switched their curbside program to single stream in 2006, under a new contract with The Recycling Foundation Inc., a locally owned company. During the first year, recycling officials implemented an educational campaign for residents, earning the city the Public Education Campaign of the Year award from the National Recycling Coalition. However, officials acknowledged that more needed to be done to increase participation and recycling.
“A year into the new single-stream program, we had delivered 55,000 carts and had a 38 percent increase in tonnage placed at the curb,” says Susan Hamilton, director of recycling for the Baton Rouge Department of Public Works. “That was an impressive number on the surface, but the truth was that we had 70,000 more households that weren't using their carts.”
Hamilton reached out to the Curbside Value Partnership (CVP) to help develop an educational campaign that would resonate with residents who had not yet requested a 64-gallon cart, as well as residents who already had carts but were not using them regularly. CVP is a national initiative to help communities launch and measure programs to encourage participation in residential recycling programs.
“CVP was honored to work with Baton Rouge, but frankly, we were nervous,” says Steve Thompson, CVP program director. “The bar was already set high. … We knew this education campaign truly had to be special and tailored for the residents.”
Although the first year of Baton Rouge's program was successful, CVP determined most residents still needed a little motivation to participate regularly. CVP created the “CART IT!” campaign to evoke feelings of civic duty and tradition in Baton Rouge's communities.
Instead of the traditional images of recycling carts, chasing arrows or commodities, the campaign uses a subtler, eye-catching design.
The campaign officially kicked off in November of 2007 with a local media event featuring Mayor Holden. It includes billboards; bus shelter advertisements; library displays; paid and free public service announcements in local newspaper, radio and television media outlets; earned media coverage; and community outreach programs.
“Don't be afraid to approach the media or other community businesses with ideas for promoting recycling at low or no cost by utilizing public service announcements and negotiated match on media buys,” Hamilton says. “Look for creative projects to promote recycling that the media will find interesting.”
The city saw an increase of more than 16 percent in recycling over the last year, and increased its overall recycling tonnage by more than 51 percent.
“The data is impressive for sure,” Hamilton says. “But what can't be expressed through numbers is the outpouring of positive feedback we have received from the community. I believe this campaign is just the first step towards creating a tradition of environmental accountability in Baton Rouge.”
To read more about the success of the Baton Rouge program and other CVP partners, log on to www.RecycleCurbside.org.
Heather McNamara is public relations counsel for the Curbside Value Partnership