Communication is a Monster Job

By Marnie Schubert
Communications, Marketing & Recreation Director | Town of Queen Creek, Arizona

How many times have you posted information about not putting greasy pizza boxes or plastic shopping bags into the recycling bin?

Does anyone listen, or does your solid waste team still complain of rampant disregard for your messaging?

Recycling is a hot topic in many communities across the nation, with several municipalities scaling back or eliminating their recycling program because there is no longer a market for these goods. High levels of contamination is one of the commonalities that plague the industry, driving up the processing fees and are ultimately a key factor when determining whether the program will be sustainable.

In Queen Creek, Arizona, we turned to some friendly neighborhood monsters to help remind people of what can and cannot be recycled and that cardboard boxes REALLY need to be broken down. You may have seen these guys at last year’s Savvy Awards (winner of the Savvy in Graphic Design and Award of Excellence in the Go Green category). And not only are they award winning, they work hard to earn their keep in the community!

The QC Recycle Center went from this: QC_Before

To this:QC_After 

By reminding people to recycle right in a fun way while they’re standing in front of the bins at the neighborhood recycling center, our favorite monsters have managed to reduce contamination rates. Prior to the campaign, the Solid Waste Inspector spent approximately 2.5 hours each week cleaning the recycling center due to overflow and illegal dumping. Currently it takes her 30 minutes or less, an 80% reduction. The monsters helped decrease cardboard box overflow by 75% and plastic bag contamination by 50%. 

Where most communities see the highest level of contamination in their recycling drop-off sites, Queen Creek has managed to reduce contamination levels to below 1%, even lower than the curbside contamination rate of 8%. 

Even at the height of the holiday season when the cardboard boxes looked like this:

At least they were broken down!

Residents are loving their recycling monsters, and our solid waste crew benefits by spending less time dealing with contamination and more time focused on customer service. 

The moral of the story is not to be afraid to have a little fun in your messaging. Who knew we’d be writing a Haiku about recycling? I certainly didn’t, but it’s working!