How One City in New Mexico is Seeking to Boost its Recycling Rate

How One City in New Mexico is Seeking to Boost its Recycling Rate

Two pounds per week per person– the equivalent of eight sticks of butter—is all it will take for Albuquerque, N.M., to achieve its residential recycling goal and end a chronic shortfall.

That’s the catchy premise of the city’s new marketing campaign “2 More Pounds” which encourages residents to recycle an additional two pounds of plastics, metals, small appliances and electronics each week.

Officially launched July 1, the campaign is the brainchild of Bobby Sisneros, marketing manager for the city’s Solid Waste Management Department.

The goal: Help the municipality reach its public-private agreement to supply 3,200 tons of recyclable materials monthly to Arizona-based Friedman Recycling. The city has only hit that goal once—December 2014—since signing the agreement and rolling out 96-gallon recycling carts to residents more than two years ago.

The 2 More Pounds slogan was born in January after Sisneros crunched numbers to calculate a solution. He started with the average collection of 2,800 tons a month, converted tonnage shortfall to pounds, and divided that by an estimated participation rate of 50 percent to 60 percent of households.

Jill Holbert, associate director of the city’s Solid Waste Management Department, says the campaign aims to motivate residents that a small effort on their part will cumulatively make a big difference.

“Instead of telling people we need to recycle 400 tons more a month, we’re able to bring this down to the individual level,” he says. “By creating this campaign what I was hoping to do was let everybody know, it’s not that large a task. You can help. In fact, it’s so simple, it’s just two pounds; that’s all you need to do, an extra two pounds.”

Holbert says about $90,000 of the department’s marketing budget has been specifically dedicated to the messaging with an equal match of in-kind promotions anticipated.

Using the results of a recent study commissioned by Johnson and Johnson as a starting point, the city has created five strategies for residents to find more opportunities to recycling in their homes. That study showed that only about half of people recycle in rooms outside of their kitchen, Holbert says.

“The 2 More Pounds campaign helps get the word out that there are plenty of items in other rooms of the house, such as the bathroom and home office, that can be recycled,” she says. “And finally, by showing specific examples of what’s recyclable, it should help to reduce unwanted items in the recycling bins.”

With a moderate contamination rate of 13 percent, education and outreach continues to be an ongoing effort for the department.

“Everybody knows to recycle cereal box, soda cans, canned goods, but they don’t look in the bathroom where they’ll find No. 2 shampoo and lotion bottles or detergent bottles in bathroom,” Sisneros says. “In Albuquerque, you can recycle small appliances in our program so we tell people don’t forget you can do pots and pans, or small e-waste such as old cell phones, remote controls and digital cameras. You can easily get another two pounds a week by looking in those rooms.”

Sisneros, a longtime marketer, says while it’s too soon to “start tooting the horns” of the new campaign, recycling collections are up over last year at this time.

“We are definitely up over the average right around eight tons each day,” he says. “So I’m very, very optimistic and I’m really excited about what I am seeing so far.”

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