EnviroMedia launches weekly social media campaign to push waste reduction

By Cody BotelerWaste Dive

Dive Brief:

  • EnviroMedia, the original creators of America Recycles Day, recently launched a new consumer-facing social media campaign that encourages waste reduction and recycling. #WasteLessWednesday will target a different product or idea each week, according to CEO Valerie Salinas-Davis. In an interview, Salinas-Davis said she wants this to be "something simple that can serve as a platform for anyone who gives a damn about waste reduction and recycling."
  • In its first iteration, the campaign targeted plastic utensils, plastic straws and swizzle sticks, urging consumers to avoid the products when possible. Salinas-Davis said the campaign would be targeting paper napkins this week.
  • Salinas-Davis sees access to curbside recycling and awareness of what can and can't be recycled as two big barriers to increasing diversion in the U.S., where the overall recycling rate has stagnated around 34% in recent years.

Dive Insight:

There are plenty of marketing and education campaigns aimed at increasing diversion, raising awareness of recycling contamination and overall waste reduction. However, many of these consumer-facing campaigns are limited in scope, be it by geography (like a city-specific campaign) or timing (if it's an event like America Recycles Day, which comes only once a year). These campaigns often focus more on recycling and less on the act of reducing consumption in the first place, even if that material is eventually recycled.

"What we like about #WasteLessWednesday is, rather than an annual recycling awareness day — which is great — [we can] use it as a way to continue the discussion about 'reduce, reuse, recycle' every week of the year," Salinas-Davis said.

An online campaign, like this one, isn't limited by geography. And, by making it a weekly conversation, EnviroMedia is increasing the likelihood that more people will see the message. Having different themes each week can also keep the conversation relevant to new developments around packaging design or regulation, as more cities look at ways to change their resident's disposal habits.

The new campaign is also mobile-focused. This could help the campaign reach millennials, a growing demographic. Surveys have shown that millennials don't recycle as much as other age groups and, in some cases, are skeptical that recycling works at all.

Reaching millennials is going to be increasingly important for waste companies and local governments if recycling and diversion rates are to continue to improve. Millennials are starting to reach leadership positions in their governments, workplaces and communities, so making sure they're properly educated about waste reduction and recycling could go a long way in improving diversion.

Jordan Lackey
Will #WasteLessWednesday make an impact? Austin agency thinks so

By Gary Dinges - American-Statesman Staff

 #WasteLessWednesday posters are being distributed to encourage young people to use straws and plasticware less often.

#WasteLessWednesday posters are being distributed to encourage young people to use straws and plasticware less often.

America Recycles Day got its start 20 years ago – thanks in no small part to an Austin-based ad agency.

EnviroMedia launched and worked on the first five years of the event, which takes place Nov. 15 each year, pushing Americans to do a better job of preserving the earth’s precious resources

In 2017, there was a new twist, with the introduction of a robust social media campaign that will live on all year long, according to EnviroMedia CEO and founder Valerie Salinas-Davis.

“It’s gratifying to see it’s still around celebrating its 20th anniversary as a program of Keep America Beautiful,” Salinas-Davis said. “This year, EnviroMedia observed America Recycles Day by launching #WasteLessWednesday, encouraging people to refuse things like straws and plastic cutlery they don’t need or want. ‘If you don’t need it, leave it.’ ”

Austin, in particular, has been receptive to Keep America Beautiful’s efforts over the years, according to Helen Lowman, the group’s president and CEO.

“Keep Austin Beautiful not only holds a special place in my heart having served on its board of directors, but it is special to our entire organization as one of the shining stars in the Keep America Beautiful affiliate network,” she said. “Led by the amazing Rodney Ahart and a wonderful staff, they implement programs based on local needs in all three of our national focus areas — End littering. Improve recycling. Beautify America’s communities. — and do them well.

“Keep Austin Beautiful sets a stellar example for other Keep America Beautiful affiliates and their best practices make an impact not only in Austin, but inspire and empower other communities we serve nationwide.”

Salinas-Davis, who was in Washington, D.C., recently for an America Recycles Day forum focusing on plastics recycling, said there’s still a lot of work to be done on the national level – even after 20 years.

“Unfortunately, not much has changed,” Salinas-Davis said. “We recycle about 35 percent of our waste in the U.S. That’s up just six percentage points since America Recycles Day was launched in 1997, meaning we continue to divert only about a third of our waste due to recycling.”

It’s not necessarily laziness that’s keeping people from recycling, she said.

“The reason why is complicated and multi-faceted, but we believe there two big reasons: awareness, meaning people believe recycling is more successful than it is, and lack of accessibility to recycling at home and at work,” Salinas-Davis said. “According to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition in 2016, ‘only 53 percent of the U.S. population has recycling automatically provided at their home.’ ”

The #WasteLessWednesday campaign is aimed primarily at young people, Salinas-Davis said.

“We’re targeting everyone but specifically young people who are more mobile and live a lifestyle that typically means lots of takeout, food delivery and even coffee on the go,” Salinas-Davis said. “They’re also very active online and in the digital space where content is easily shared.”

While some might roll their eyes, Salinas-Davis said the goal isn’t to take away your to-go plasticware. See some suggested tips – and download a poster – at wastelesswednesday.com.

“We don’t envision a world without straws and plastic forks,” she said. “There’s a purpose for them, but let’s not use them unless we really need them. What many people don’t realize is that straws and a lot of plastics are not recyclable. So, let’s just avoid using them whenever possible. And since not all Americans have access to recycling at home, the least we can do is reduce the waste we generate.

“#WasteLessWednesday allows us to talk about reducing waste and have the conversation about recycling once a week, 52 times each year. Hopefully, by initiating a weekly conversation about reducing waste and recycling, today’s younger generation of adults will demand more access to recycling.”