RECYCLING: Making Buy-Recycled Work

Pennsylvanians not only recycle, they buy recycled products, thanks to an aggressive, state sponsored program.

Creating a Pennsylvania Recycling Media Campaign in 1993, the state began to educate its citizens about the link between buying recycled products and recycling's benefits. The Campaign uses a variety of educational techniques, including the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) websites, newspaper ads and inserts, radio and TV public service announcements (PSAs), exhibits, special events, and partnerships with trade associations and community groups.

Is it working? According to DEP research, by last year, 91 percent of Pennsylvania's citizens understand that recycling helps protect the environment, 90 percent know that buying recycled products supports recycling and 84 percent can identify specific products that contain recycled materials.

Pennsylvania's comprehensive, 1999 buy-recycled educational campaign began by distributing 50,000 recycled tote bags at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

By March, DEP placed PSAs with 30 television stations and 250 radio stations. The TV ad featured employees from three of the state's recycled product manufacturers. The radio spot, which won a national Telly award, included a talk show host explaining to a worried mother that her daughter's preference for pants made from old blue jeans scraps, a belt made of bottle caps and a handbag made from a license plate was an environmentally smart statement. (Listen to the spot on DEP's website - - enter buy recycled into the directlink search.)

The DEP website also carried an Earth Day 1999 offer for free computer mouse pads made from recycled Pennsylvania tires.

Another Earth Day highlight was DEP's "Recycled on the Runway" fashion show, which featured models wearing student-designed recycled fashions. Area stores offered coupons for products made with recycled materials.

To help promote Pennsylvania's October Buy-Recycled Month and America Recycles Day, "Recycled on the Runway" toured the state. The show also was included in the DEP-supported GreenWorks for Pennsylvania TV show: "The Recycling Loop: Buy Recycled." (It can be viewed at

During the spring and summer, recycled vinyl stadium cushions and recycled plastic sports bottles were distributed to fans at the state's six minor league baseball stadiums.

DEP also created a Buy-Recycled Business Card (CD), targeted to purchasing agents. The card lists 130 Pennsylvania recycled product manufacturers and their website links. The CD also includes the Pennsylvania Resources Council's Buyers Guide to Recycled Products, an animated buy-recycled screen saver, links to 25 Internet sources for buy-recycled information, and Pennsylvania's 1998 buy recycled TV and radio PSAs and poster.

Also last fall, DEP produced "Life's Better When You Buy Recycled," a 30-second television PSA in English and Spanish that used humor to contrast the fortunes of people who buy vs. those who don't buy recycled products. Images from the ad also were featured in buy-recycled exhibits that were given to 67 state county recycling coordinators, TV Guide, a poster, movie slides at theaters, DEP's buy-recycled webpage and a postcard that doubled as an entry form for America Recycles Day prize drawings.

In another program, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association and DEP joined in fall 1999 to advertise recycling options for the state's motor vehicle license plates. Vehicle owners were notified through newspaper ads, direct mail, agency website postings and two toll-free hotlines that their old license plates could be recycled through local recycling programs and PennDOT district offices. For people who couldn't part with their plates, one firm in Pittsburgh could turn the plates into a photo album, road journal, CD holder or handbag.

In November, DEP broadcast a webcast of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) WasteWi$e Buy Recycled Satellite Forum, and later archived the program on the website. November also marked the final "Recycled on the Runway" fashion show, which was held in conjunction with the state's America Recycles Day drawing.

The 1999 campaign came to a close with contests for Pennsylvania high school students, who are preparing feature articles, PSA's, photographs and cartoons for their school newspapers on the importance of buying recycled products. The school producing the winning PSA will be awarded video equipment, and DEP's website also will feature the winners.

Nevertheless, motivating consumers to buy recycled products remains a challenge. While DEP evaluates strategies to address these needs, the DEP plans to expand its Recycling Media Campaign for 2000. This year, it will support a recycled product ombudsman to encourage companies to join the national Buy Recycled Business Alliance. Through their support, Pennsylvania will move its program to the next level.