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Marissa Segundo Talks Breaking the Communication Barrier

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Marissa Segundo, communications consultant at Resource Recycling Systems, is passionate about how she represents clients' recycling and recovery initiatives. 

The Waste360 40 Under 40 recipient takes a strategic approach, "to ensure consistent messaging, and that it connects with operational success."

Segundo holds degrees in public relations and Spanish. While she began her career in the nonprofit sector, Segundo eventually became a recycling communications coordinator for a Florida municipality.

She comments, "we're always focused on smart goals that we can create for any communication plan, rather than just making a flashy plan, to really make sure that we're focused on strategic communication."

Waste360 recently spoke with Segundo about her current projects, what it takes to lead a successful campaign and how to break barriers across different audiences.

Waste360: What initiatives are you currently working on?

Marissa Segundo: Because strategic communication is my main focus, I work with a variety of initiatives on the both the public sector and private sector and also the collaborative initiatives. I have worked recently with communities to add SMART communications goals when rolling out a single-stream programs and adding items. Another huge initiative was a recycling rebranding campaign that really focused on plastic bags as the top contaminants utilizing community-based social marketing to find measurable success in decreasing the amount of plastic bags in recycling carts. I like working with collaborations where you've got a mixture of representatives throughout the recycling value chain focused on how we can move the needle with recycling and make the difference, you know, together. It’s really about why recycling and recovery is important and how each individual or business can really make a visible difference, its personal to them.

Waste360: In terms of team leadership, what does it take to get champion of these causes?

Marissa Segundo: I've always been guided by my passion, and through that passion, I really like putting in the time to have the right people in the impactful positions and on projects where they can really take ownership and shine. That, to me, is very gratifying. I've had the opportunity through my career to pursue passion projects and learn under leaders that had this same mentality of , “I'll put you in a position. You may make a mistake, but that's okay. We'll learn from it and go from there.” So, I really think if you're passionate about something, that that passion is contagious.

Waste360: What does it take to be innovative with the importance of recycling and sustainability?

Marissa Segundo:  Unfortunately, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each community and business has unique set of tools and resources, along with challenges for their program compliance or to reach sustainability goals. Working to breakdown siloes to make sure everyone is at the table and an active part of the solution is crucial. This is anyone from administration to custodial staff, drivers and customer service staff, to name a few. And we've really discovered that through collaborations and understanding we can bring people to the forefront through stakeholder engagement and other activities. In COVID times, I’ve been able to implement engaging virtual events that encourage participation in a thinktank-like setting, partnering with national and state recycling organizations and for our clients.  The aim is really to find a way to address each audience in their terms rather than trying to have one silver bullet to solve all problems.

Waste360: What are the challenges and opportunities with communicating with individuals who speak different native languages?

Marissa Segundo: For me, being bilingual has opened up so many doors to meet new people and to really be able to understand different culture. But being bilingual or even just translating a message alone is really not enough. There's so many nuances to the language and cultures within a community. So it kind of goes back to what I was saying where you're really researching an individual community and what their needs are and then looking at strategic communication from that lens. And the same is true with bilingual or any type of reaching any type of community that is a non-English speaking community.

Waste360: Do you have any advice about researching and learning more about communities that you want to reach?

Marissa Segundo: We do a lot of research on the motivations for people – the benefits and barriers for people to participate in an activity, whether it's recycling, composting or whether it's pursuing solutions to create a circular economy. Starting with that research to find out the motivation is a good place and also doing research on where are places where people in whichever your target audiences gather, what are what are the channels that they use to communicate and currently are there ambassadors or champions that you can engage in your messaging to reach these communities, even if you don't speak the language. It’s really important to take culture and really any kind of communication seriously realizing that recycling is a very personal issue. You're asking people to make a behavioral choice each time you ask them to recycle. Unlike throwing things away, it's a lot easier in a lot of places to just find a trash can and throw something away but with recycling, you're making decisions. And so that's important in your communications messaging.

Waste360: Do you have any other additional advice?

Marissa Segundo: We're entering into a really exciting time for recycling, despite the uncertainty of economics. And I've never really been more inspired. Right now, the technologies that are coming out of the space and the abilities through communications are really amazing. To show residents and businesses behind the scenes to see what it's like after [waste] leaves the bin just feels like magic. But now, I think we have so many opportunities to really connect on though why certain things are recyclable and why aren't they? I don't think it has to be that complicated. And we may be talking in 10 years about a completely different recycling system. That remains to be seen. But for now, I think there are so many tools in our toolbox. And if we really put the time in and invest in communication, you will see positive results.

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