Once a feasibility report for automated collection is accepted and the approval is received from your City Commission or Board of County Commissioners, the real hard work begins. That is, trying to gain public acceptance for the changeover of the manual solid waste collection system and then to implement the plan to procure the necessary equipment to move the program forward. The City of Lakeland, FL recently commenced on implementing its residential, automated program. Some details on the program will be provided, as it has rolled out, and some preliminary “lessons learned” that will be useful for other communities just starting to explore automated collection for their customers.
Experience has shown that the success of a new automated collection program is clearly dependent on deployment of a successful education and outreach campaign. It is important that every effort be used to ensure that residents have a clear understanding of how the new system will impact them. With this idea in mind, once the program was approved by the City Commission, SCS Engineers and Kessler Consultants (Tampa, FL) worked with the city’s Solid Waste and Public Information Departments to develop a proactive Communications Plan for the project.
The first step in the Communications Plan was to identify a brand for the program. Communication programs that had been developed in other municipalities were reviewed to identify any magic bullets as far as strategy was concerned and how this type of information could be rolled out to the city’s customers. A specific Web site, www.EZCan. lakelandgov.net, was developed by the city where customers could get information about how the program was going to be deployed over the next four years, and how they would select their specific can size (95, 65 and 35 gallon). To follow up on any potential questions, a “frequently asked questions” section on the city’s Web site was included, which covered typical questions that city customers might have asked during the rollout of the program. A programspecific video was prepared which showed how automated collection was rolled out in a neighboring city. Lakeland’s Mayor provided some commentary about why automated collection was selected for the city and what advantages it offered both the customers and its sanitation workers in terms of safety, efficiency and a reduction in overall monthly costs. Finally, as shown in Figure 1, page 25, “billboards” were placed on city sanitation vehicles to help get the word out. This provided tremendous exposure for the program with little upfront costs.