The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia, has launched Communities for Recycling, a national initiative that provides Americans with real-time, personalized and hyper-local recycling information through Facebook Messenger. The organization says it collaborated with Facebook and leading packaged goods brands like PepsiCo on this initiative.
According to a news release from The Recycling Partnership, no centralized guidance is available to help Americans recycle the right way as each U.S. community has its own policies and procedures for waste and recycling. As a result, individuals need to “check locally” on whether a specific material is accepted in their neighborhood programs, which can be a barrier to participating in curbside recycling programs.
“Americans want to recycle, and they want to recycle the right things. Frequently the public is just confused because recycling varies from place to place,” says Keefe Harrison, a founder and the CEO of The Recycling Partnership. “That’s what is so exciting about Communities for Recycling—it allows us to localize recycling information in one tool that will soon be available nationwide. It allows the public to know what is recyclable in their town, and it connects with companies who are doing more to design their products to be more recyclable.”
The Recycling Partnership says it is piloting Communities for Recycling in Atlanta and in Fort Worth, Texas. Through the Facebook Messenger platform, people in those two cities can find out how to recycle common items such as plastic bottles, cardboard and metal, as well as learn more about the recyclability of less commonly recyclable items such as yogurt cups, pizza boxes and egg cartons by typing questions into the Messenger experience to get real-time recycling guidance in their respective locations.
“Knowing how to recycle everyday items is a complex problem, but also an empowering opportunity to equip people with hyper-local solutions to play a role in shaping the future of sustainability,” says Arielle Gross Samuels, head of global business strategy and engagement at Facebook. “We are excited to partner with the esteemed organization The Recycling Partnership and leverage Messenger to provide consumers with practical information around recycling best practices to benefit themselves and their broader communities.”
Atlanta and Fort Worth have expressed optimism about participating in the new program.
“The launch of Communities for Recycling is a foundation for what is likely to become a new national standard for hyper-local recycling education and contamination reduction efforts, helping communities like Atlanta recycle more and recycle better,” says Kanika Greenlee, environmental programs director for the city of Atlanta’s Department of Public Works and executive director of Keep Atlanta Beautiful.
“Communities like Fort Worth realize that social media is a progressively important communication tool to connect with new audiences for specific programs such as recycling,” adds Robert Smouse, assistant director, code compliance, at Solid Waste Services in Fort Worth. “Fort Worth is proud to be one of the pilot cities chosen to share this personalized, hyper-local recycling information to our residents. Recycling and waste minimization are important issues in our city. In order to reach the largest audience possible, who better to do that with than Facebook.”
How it works
According to The Recycling Partnership, the digital Communities for Recycling tool was launched this month to Atlanta and Fort Worth Facebook and Instagram users in English and Spanish. The Recycling Partnership says it intends to expand the experience to additional U.S. communities later this year as it launches a national database that includes accurate recycling information, including accepted materials for thousands of communities nationwide.
Samantha Kappalman, vice president of strategic communications at The Recycling Partnership, says the organization decided to pilot the program in Atlanta and Fort Worth because of its relationship with those two communities and insight on their curbside recycling programs.
With Communities for Recycling, Kappalman says the program uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide answers to residents on what’s recyclable.
She explains, “If someone asks the question, ‘Can I recycle a Pepsi can?’ it will determine this is a can, and it can be recycled. Or if someone asks, ‘Can I recycle my soda?’ it will ask, ‘Is it a plastic bottle or a can?’ By doing that, we can get to the root of what the material is that they are asking about and whether it’s recyclable in that community. If we get a question we don’t have the answer to, we’ll get back to that person with the answer.
Kappalman adds, “So often when we post on social media, we say to ‘please check locally’ [on what’s recyclable]. There are different lists of accepted materials in all 9,000 local recycling programs across the country. Wit this program, we hope what we’ll see is people are engaged and want to learn about what they can recycle locally. This is about education—improving what is put in curbside recycling—as well as participating in recycling.”
When using the program via Messenger, Kappalman says it asks users where they live to determine how to answer their questions. It also prompts users to take a nine-question quiz to “check their recycling IQ” and join a national Facebook Group intended to inspire involvement in recycling in communities nationwide.
Kappalman says, “[The program] offers a learning experience first and then answers users’ questions.”
On Instagram, Communities for Recycling will showcase ads to drive users to Facebook Messenger to engage with the program as well.
In addition to providing real-time localized recycling education, Communities for Recycling will showcase local heroes who give back to their communities through recycling, an effort to capture all three stage gates—access, knowledge and engagement—required to influence positive recycling behaviors.
The Recycling Partnership says participating brands will help amplify the recycling education message by featuring information about products that are fully recyclable in the pilot communities.
Access to the Communities for Recycling Messenger experience is available by sending a message to the “Communities for Recycling” page. Currently, the full experience is available exclusively for residents of Fort Worth and Atlanta who recycle curbside; however, everyone is encouraged to try the recycling IQ quiz and join the national Facebook Group.