Caught in the Act

In Kansas, sometimes getting caught in the act is a good thing, especially when the environment is at stake. Through the “Get Caught Recycling” campaign, Kansas residents have had the chance to spot prominent state figures, such as veteran journalist Bill Curtis, former Gov. Mike Hayden and NBA star Wayne Simien, recycling. Each of these well-known individuals — all from the Sunflower State — are part of the educational campaign that uses posters and TV spots created by the Bureau of Waste Management at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to teach Kansans about the importance of recycling.

“[We wanted] to come up with some new creative idea to try and stimulate additional recycling in Kansas or to stop any kind of deterioration in recycling that we had been reading about nationwide,” says Bill Bider, waste management bureau director. “We were just brainstorming as to what we might be able to do to catch people's attention and get them enthused, [and] we came up with the idea.”

At the end of 2005, the campaign's first round of posters and ads, which are funded by the department's public education budget, were released. Most of the individuals featured in the posters also are stars of 30-second TV spots. By featuring these famous Kansans, Bider and the “Get Caught” crew hope that people can identify with well-respected individuals.

“We needed a mixture of people that would reach different groups of citizens within Kansas,” Bider says. “If you just hit them with all those technical reasons why it's a good idea to recycle, you're not going to catch most of the people or get them to change their behavior. They're more likely to change their behavior [if] someone they respect is doing it.”

Every six months, the creative team hopes to update the posters and TV spots with new famous faces. The team already is in talks with Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, country music singer Martina McBride, the Kansas State and the University of Kansas mascots, and race car driver Clint Bowyer. While the campaign already features regional celebrities, such as two spelling bee winners and the reigning fiesta queen, the bureau plans to extend the program to the local level, featuring local sports figures, mayors and executives from major corporations.

Although the program is still in its early stages, the response has been positive. “We think that this is a program that has the potential to run for a few years [while] keeping it fresh,” Bider says. “Everybody who has looked at it in every setting has been positive in terms of thinking that it has potential to enthuse people and change behaviors.”