New 30-second and 60-second commercials will start airing this month–along with new billboards– urging consumers, businesses and organizations to embrace standardized labeling and adopt consistent messaging to eliminate confusion at the bin and decrease contamination rates, especially in public recycling streams.
Mitch Hedlund, founder and executive director of Recycle Across America (RAA), says the organization first piloted the “let’s recycle right!” celebrity campaign in the first quarter of 2014.
“We started with billboards and print campaign with some of the celebrities, and it was a chance for us to put the ads out there and measure impact and response and do our due diligence before we invested in creating a TV commercial,” says Hedlund. “We had amazing results.”
In fact, Bank of America learned about RAA’s standardized labeling campaign after seeing an advertisement in a Boston magazine.
“Next thing you know, they're piloting the label in their corporate offices and that was a success. Next thing you know, they're rolling out the standardized labels throughout all of their locations and then next thing you know, they're donating 26,000 standardized labels to all the K-12 schools in Orlando,” she says. “This is the way this whole journey has been–just this amazing viral experience where it just keeps mushrooming.”
Standardized labels are increasing recycling levels between 50 to 100 percent and significantly diminishing the amount of trash historically thrown in recycling bins, Hedlund says. Companies such as NBCUniversal, Disney, Hallmark, Kohler, American Girl and 3,500 schools and universities across the U.S. have adopted standardized labels on their recycling bins.
“If we do it right, recycling truly has the ability to be one of the most impactful things we can do for the environment and the economy. It would increase jobs by the millions in the U.S. – long-term domestic jobs,” she says. “It relies on society, you and me and 300 million people to do it, and we have to do it right because if we don't do it, manufacturers don't want to buy it.”
She says the only reason recycling is not profitable is because it so confusing and fragmented that the general public makes tremendous amounts of mistakes or they become apathetic and skeptical.
“That is why we do what we do and it is working,” she says.
Sharon Kneiss, president and CEO of National Waste & Recycling Association, says her organization “applauds” the work of RAA.
“One of the biggest challenges for the recycling industry today is avoiding contamination of the recycling stream and making recycling more productive, so we are excited to see the recycle right campaign emerge,” Kneiss says.
In terms of consistent messaging, the key is to make it as simple as you can for consumers, Kneiss says.
“People want to recycle. What we have to do is to make sure they understand how to recycle properly,” she says. “Recycling is an innovators game. People who are recycling are always going to be looking for markets for new materials, which is great that we are looking to recycle more, (but) it puts more into the stream and more for people to understand, so it’s a balance.”
Every 60 days, RAA will roll out a new ad with a new celebrity. In addition to the 50 celebrities already signed onto the campaign, Hedlund says she’s hoping to attract two high-level political figures from both sides of the aisles.
“This effort is definitely about creating jobs and improving manufacturing but it's also about keeping waste out of the oceans and improving the environments and CO2 levels,” she says.
Hedlund says people ask her all the time how she convinced celebrities and such a well-known photographer (Timothy White) to donate their talents and famous faces to RAA’s campaign.
“I say, ‘Because I ask them the same question I ask everybody else. Have you ever been confused at the bin when you're at the airport or out in public? They go: Oh my God! Yes. Everywhere.’ Instantly, they understand how ridiculously confusing such an important thing such as recycling has become.”