2017 Summary


Snohomish County Paper Recycling Campaign
Snohomish County Paper Recycling Campaign

Snohomish County Paper Recycling Campaign

Campaign used research to identify top paper types in the garbage and focus messaging - achieving 2.5 million impressions through advertising!

Waste Management conducted a campaign to increase the amount of paper recycled in Snohomish County's unincorporated communities. The outreach effort was informed by two research studies. A 2013 behavior study revealed that mixed paper is the most common recyclable found in garbage. In 2017, WM conducted a study to determine which types of mixed paper were most commonly found in the garbage.

WM collected data and insights through a one-time curbside garbage and recycling collection audit. This confirmed that customers were already recycling a majority of their paper waste, but helped identify key points of confusion and which specific types of paper were ending up the garbage most often. These paper types included calendars, notepads, gift bags, and school/child art projects, as well as polycoated paper such as milk cartons and coffee cups. Because polycoated paper is not as valuable in the recycling market, the education campaign focused on the other paper types identified in the study.

The outreach campaign itself began in October and ran through mid-December. It's messaging first thanked customers for doing a great job of recycling paper then reminded them that all paper is recyclable and highlighted the top household paper offenders ending up in the trash: notepads, construction paper, calendars and greeting cards. During the campaign, Waste Management customers in Snohomish County unincorporated areas received information about paper recycling through a digital video ad campaign and three community outreach events. Customers also received a unique direct mail piece that looked like a "thank you" card with images inside showing the top paper types ending up in the garbage. The campaign drove customers to a campaign web page with more information. Overall, the campaign resulted in 49,409 households reached via direct mail, 329 in-person conversations at events and 2.5 million impressions through advertising.

WM Mobile App Launch
WM RightCycle Mobile App Launch

WM RightCycle Mobile App Launch
7,600+ customers downloaded the WM mobile app and conducted more than 24,000 searches during the six-week campaign period.

In 2017, Waste Management launched a new mobile app and website widget for customers in unincorporated areas of King and Snohomish Counties. The app/widget serves as a one-stop resource that helps Waste Management customer access recycling and composting information easily and on-the-go. Application users can access a searchable database of hundreds of items with disposal and preparation instructions, and users can play a sorting game that tests their knowledge about what goes where.

To raise awareness of the new app/widget and drive downloads, Waste Management implemented an integrated marketing campaign that included direct mail, video advertising and community outreach events. The campaign included a direct mail postcard that was sent to nearly 150,000 WM customers in the target areas, an email blast that was distributed to WM Foodcycler newsletter subscribers, and geo-targeted video ads that ran on ad networks, Pandora, Facebook and YouTube. To incentivize signups, both the direct mail postcard and Foodcycler email were supported by a giveaway promotion featuring a custom drink tumbler with the WM RightCycle logo. In addition to these tactics, Waste Management also conducted community outreach at local events and created a script to train call center staff to include mentions of the WM application and widget in calls from customers in unincorporated areas of Snohomish and King Counties.

By the end of the promotional campaign, the new WM mobile app had been downloaded a total of 7,676 times and the widget site garnered just under 54,000 views. Across both Snohomish and King Counties, digital advertising garnered a total of 4.8 million impressions, more than 1.2 million video views and almost 25,000 click-throughs.

Within King and Snohomish Counties, customers searched for 24,453 items via the online widget during the campaign period. The top 5 most common items searched for within the app and widget included primarily plastic or plastic-coated items, including pill bottles, grocery bags, cleaning product bottles, utensils and milk cartons. In Snohomish County, another top search was pizza delivery boxes. In addition, more than 16,000 app user sessions were initiated by those who downloaded the app to their phone or tablet.

Users of the app played the available sorting game a total of 2,629 times during the campaign period. This revealed that the most commonly misunderstood items in the game were plastic clamshell containers (71 percent thought they were recyclable), paper coffee cup (61percent sorted as compostable), and plastic shopping bags (58 percent sorted as recyclable).

King County Plastics Recycling Campaign
King County Plastics Recycling Campaign King County Plastics Recycling Campaign

In order to help reduce the amount of recyclable plastic ending up in the garbage, Waste Management executed an outreach effort to raise awareness and encourage proper plastics recycling in King County's unincorporated communities in November and December 2017. This project focused on helping residents to recycle more of the right plastics, focusing on plastics that are most prevalent in the garbage, but also the most valuable in today's recycling market - bottles, jugs, tubs and cups.
A previous 2013 WM Recycling Behavior Study and subsequent focus groups, identified the following as the desired behavior changes and barriers to change when it comes to plastics recycling:
    Desired Behavior Changes

  1. Put more plastic tubs, jugs, bottles and cups into the curbside recycling cart

  2. Rinse or wipe clean plastic tubs, jugs, bottles and cups before they're put into the curbside recycling cart.
    Barriers to Recycling Plastic

  • Convenience - rinsing or cleaning and not understanding how clean it has to be

  • Confusion about what is recyclable (for example, caps/lids and different plastic types)

The campaign addressed these behaviors and helped residents overcome their barriers through a playful, yet informative, campaign. Messaging focused on looking at the shape of plastics, rather than the chasing the arrows number, when determining what to recycle. In addition to messages focused on recycling plastic tubs, jugs, bottles and cups, the campaign taught consumers how to properly prepare their plastics for recycling - a quick rinse or wipe.

Campaign messaging also addressed the cognitive dissonance between how well people think they are doing when it comes to recycling plastic and how much of what they could be recycling actually ends up in the trash or isn't cleaned correctly before it's recycled. Throughout November and December, Waste Management customers received information about plastics recycling through digital video ads, a direct mail thank you card and three community outreach events. The ads drove customers to click through to a campaign web page for more information. Overall, the campaign reached 41,630 households via direct mail, generated 791 one-to-one conversations with members of the community and captured one million impressions through advertising.

WM reached more than 41,000 households and generated nearly 800 conversations with community members through digital advertising, direct mail and events.

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