September 2005

City of San Diego’s “Recycle or Else” campaign proves effective

San Diego, CA— The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) awarded the City of San Diego’s Environmental Services Department the 2005 Bronze Excellence Award in marketing for the department’s “Recycle Or Else” education campaign. Elmer L. Heap, Jr., director, will accept the award at WASTECON, SWANA’s annual solid waste exposition on September 29, 2005 in Austin, Texas.

The Environmental Services Department designed the Recycle Or Else campaign to increase public awareness about San Diego’s need to reduce the amount of waste entering the Miramar Landfill.

The landfill has only about seven more years of usable life left to accept trash and the City risks potential fines of $10,000 a day from the State of California for not diverting at least 50 percent of its solid waste from the landfill. Currently, the city diverts 45 percent of its refuse through recycling programs. The State has granted an extension to December 31, 2005 to meet the mandated diversion requirement.

The Recycle Or Else campaign was developed after phone surveys and focus groups were conducted of more than 600 San Diego residents about what motivates them to recycle.

The one-year Recycle Or Else campaign was launched last summer. The campaign consisted of billboards, direct mailers, cable TV spots, an interactive educational website, and promotional items such as clothing made with 100 percent recycled material and imprinted with the Recycle Or Else message.

Launched on August 2, 2004, the campaign featured “Or Else” signs appearing on 75 San Diego Metropolitan buses and 50 billboards around San Diego. The “Or Else” message resulted in inquiries from the public about the campaign to local radio stations and the City’s billboard vendor.

After three weeks the “Or Else” teaser message was changed to “Recycle Or Else,” which appeared on billboards, city collection trucks, and bus signs. The “Recycle Or Else” message featured photos showing San Diego landmarks in 2012 such as Balboa Park, La Jolla Beaches and the Gaslamp Quarter awash in trash due to a filled Miramar Landfill and no place to dispose of rubbish.

Preliminary results during the first eight months of the campaign show that recycling tonnages have increased by approximately four percent in the citywide curbside recycling program. However, a more complete analysis will happen after the campaign ends in August 2005. Although tonnage recycled by businesses is not tracked, the Environmental Services Department assumes that there was a similar impact in that sector.

The Recycle Or Else campaign was funded by revenues received from the State of California Department of Conservation for beverage container recycling.

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