Hillsborough County is one of the largest communities in Florida. The County has more than one million residents, 240,000 households and covers more than 1,000 square miles of land. Yet, participation in curbside recycling was relatively low and tonnages had remained flat over the last four years. In the summer of 2009, the County Solid Waste Management Department (SWMD) partnered with the Curbside Value Partnership (CVP), a national program that helps communities grow their curbside programs through education, to curtail the trend and rejuvenate awareness in recycling among residents. Working together, it was determined the best way to really impact recycling was primarily to recruit new recyclers and secondarily to motivate existing recyclers to be more diligent. To accomplish this, a creative and innovative outreach campaign was designed in order to cut through the clutter and get residents talking about recycling as they had never done before. To develop and execute this campaign, the following steps were used.
Step One: Create a Game Plan
Planning is a critical first step in any successful campaign. The planning process was kicked off by creating an in-depth communications plan that included everything from goals to the tactics that were planned to implement. To build the plan, representatives from various departments in the County were involved, all of whom provided their own perspective and ideas that were then melded into the overall plan. Highlights from the plan included:
- Campaign Objectives—Grow participation by 15 percent and increase volume collected by 10 percent.
- The Strategy—Develop a campaign aimed at getting more bins on the street, recognizing that this will impact participation and recycling.
- Key Messages—Should focus on key elements of the campaign, which would be a new Web site, online bin ordering and County-wide contest.
- Target Audience—All homeowners living in Hillsborough County.
- Campaign Timeline—Planning began about three months in advance, and the campaign lasted three months.
No plan would be complete without consideration given to how success would be measured at the end of the campaign period. The indirect and direct indicators of impact important to measure included Web site hits, contest entries, bin requests, media coverage, calls and e-mails to the County, bin setout rates and tonnage (though an immediate impact on tonnage was not anticipated due to the economic conditions faced in the County).
Step Two: Put the Plan into Action Branding
A campaign was developed that, quite literally, put recycling bins in people’s faces. A campaign using “Famous Bins” was created that involved easy-to-solve picture riddles featuring famous “Bens,” such as “Ben & Jerry’s” and “Big Ben.” By using “Famous Bins” we made the recycling bin the center of the campaign (see Figure 1, page 44).
To further incentivize residents, a contest was developed (prizes were donated by local businesses) that included five different “Famous Bins” deployed around the County as ads—on billboards, bus sides and even in several movie theaters (see Figure 2, page 45). The call to action: “Get your free bin and ‘Guess Who?’ to win!” led people to the Web site to enter the contest. Visitors to the site were also encouraged to sign up to receive recycling bins.