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Contributing to Communities Environmental Education

While consumers want to recycle, doing so correctly can be confusing. As we move through our busy lives, it’s hard to keep track of what does or doesn’t belong in the recycling bin.

That’s why Waste Management created the Recycle Right program, the first national, turnkey recycling education program built to feature open-source tools to help customers understand how to recycle properly. We also partner with states, cities and businesses across North America to broaden conversations and elevate understanding around the impact individual behavior can have in fostering sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Earth Day 2020

While 2020 marked the 50-year anniversary of Earth Day, in-person celebrations were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, we focused our education efforts on outreach through social media, traditional media and webinars. Our communications encouraged community members across North America to recycle right and choose items made from recycled content. Social media posts included creative projects families could enjoy from the comfort of their home, including chalk-art challenges, crafts made from common recyclables and a tutorial for making a landfill out of candy. As part of this multichannel outreach, the New York Stock Exchange recognized Waste Management sorter David Amaro on its social media feeds.

Through resources, explanations of common recycling myths, and lists of dos and don’ts, Recycle Right provides answers for residents, businesses, educators, property managers and government institutions seeking recycling know-how. Brochures, posters, decals, videos and other resources are all available for download as part of our toolkit. Plus, municipalities and commercial customers can take advantage of a free widget that directs consumers to our Recycle Right website. For educators, we’ve created a standards-based, interactive learning recycling curriculum designed to align with the Next Generation Science Standards. In addition, our digital communication campaigns give us the chance to reach and educate approximately 8.5 million people annually via regular tips- and tricks-related posts. We also regularly update the Recycle Right web pages to provide real-time information and solutions to help our customers recycle properly. For example, since plastic bags are not acceptable to recycle in commercial or curbside recycling programs, we created a “No Plastic Bags” toolkit to provide businesses the necessary tools to train janitorial staff and employees to recycle without using plastic bags. Similarly, we created a “Free Your Bag” campaign with short videos to help residential customers set their recycling programs at home up for success.

While Recycle Right is a national campaign, we also created customized content to help our partners meet their waste and recycling goals. In Washington State, Waste Management added 11 social media channels to the company’s traditional outreach programming to share information about community recycling events, Q&As, fun facts, success stories, sustainability tips and more. The content engaged younger and more diverse audiences, and garnered high marks from cities, counties, elected officials and community partners who follow us and share our content. As a result of this targeted and local approach, Waste Management won the prestigious 2020 Recycler of the Year for Innovation Award from the Washington State Recycling Association.

Other Partnerships

Waste Management partners with the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN), Keep America Beautiful (KAB), The Recycling Partnership (TRP), the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and others to increase individual overall awareness and understanding of the benefits of recycling right. Through national and local partnerships, we also support environmental projects and education that aim to deepen understanding of waste behavior and impacts. In 2019, during the Waste Management Sustainability Forum, we announced a $100,000 donation to support National Geographic’s environmental and science education programs. Our donation helped support the creation of educational materials on the plastic crisis in National Geographic’s digital Resource Library, a repository of free education offerings, including classroom resources, to teach students about ocean plastic and how they can be part of the solution.

KAB is a national community improvement nonprofit organization that has been working to end littering, improve recycling and beautify communities for more than 65 years. In 2019, Waste Management was a national sponsor of KAB’s America Recycles Day, a nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting recycling in the U.S. To help commemorate the day, Waste Management sponsored the Recycling Hero Award, recognizing a veteran or active military servicemember who exhibits an outstanding commitment to recycling; a U.S. EPA and KAB Forum; an Innovation Fair; and the America Recycles Summit—where Waste Management’s recycling leaders supported U.S. EPA in their recycling commitments. Many Waste Management sites also hosted community events and facility open houses to inform and educate neighbors of all ages about how to better manage their waste.

As a strong advocate of environmental stewardship, we regularly share our passion by raising awareness in news stories and through social media posts to educate the public about recycling:

Members of our Florida team spoke with CBS Miami about the dangers contaminants pose to recycling workers.

Brent Bell, Waste Management Vice President of Recycling, sat down with Recycling Product News to share recycling tips to use beyond America Recycles Day.

Building Value Together
with Our Diverse

The communities we serve are diverse. That’s why our local teams work closely with municipal partners to provide recycling guidelines and education that are not only translated into the languages customers speak but are also culturally relevant.

For example, we continue to grow our award-winning Spanish-language outreach campaign “Odas al Reciclaje” (Odes to Recycling). Inspired by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and his odes to everyday items, the campaign pays homage to recyclables that can take on new life to benefit our planet and future generations. We hosted a poetry contest, challenging customers to write poems in Neruda’s style using the theme of “poniendo tu granito de arena,” or the idea that each action helps the environment. Winning poems were featured in direct mail, online and on television. In 2019, we expanded the campaign to reach Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities in partnership with Snohomish County in Washington State, commissioning visuals by local artists and poets for each community. Our outreach also includes working with local radio stations and television networks that broadcast in Korean and Spanish to engage communities in Waste Management’s recycling and composting programs.

In addition, for the past decade, our WM Recycle Corps has helped build bridges between Waste Management employees, our Pacific Northwest customers and potential team members from diverse backgrounds. We recruit interns fluent in Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese, the four most common non-English languages spoken in the greater Puget Sound area. Interns undergo training on strategies to engage the public in recycling behavior change. Once they’re trained, the interns reach out to businesses, property managers and residents in multicultural communities to improve recycling and waste reduction efforts.