Robust Communications: How Residential Research Can Combat Contamination

Marissa Segundo Image

Marissa Segundo
RRS Communications Consultant

Read the full article in Recycling Today, April issue, or view online: Robust Communications

From the article:

In 1970, consumers were exposed to 500 media messages daily on average. Today, that number exceeds 5,000. Using custom data to develop personalized strategic communications and tailoring a powerful recycling message with a multimodal strategy can make positive behavior change a possibility for local recycling programs.

The city of Lakeland, Florida, has a respectable recycling participation rate averaging 76 percent; however, the contamination rate is nearly 20 percent. Some of the contamination can be attributed to eager residents who believe certain materials/items are recyclable, even if they are not currently accepted in the curbside bin. The city knew it needed an innovative approach to combat this “wishcycling,” so it worked with Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), Ann Arbor, Michigan, to launch a strategic communications campaign.

The first step was to gather information. RRS interviewed drivers, supervisors, material recovery facility (MRF) partners and frontline customer service staff from several city departments, including the solid waste and recycling department. Ride-alongs in recycling and solid waste vehicles serving residents were conducted to gain insight into common complaints and compliments about the program from key internal stakeholders. Additionally, data from a recent MRF recycling composition study determined the top contaminants: plastic bags/film, clothing, foam packaging and yard waste.

Then it was time to hear residents’ perspectives.