Edmonton’s blue bins sing recycling’s praises

A unique media execution by the City of Edmonton has motion sensor-activated blue bins that preach the virtues of savvy recycling to multi-family home dwellers.

When was the last time your garbage sang to you?

For Edmontonians, it may have happened recently, thanks to the ‘Make a blue bin less blue’ campaign by the city that lets recycling bins do the talking.

Targeting multi-family buildings, the City of Edmonton has installed motion-activated devices on over 400 recycling bins in townhouse complexes, condos and apartments. When someone lifts the lid of the bin to drop something in, they’ll hear a tuneful message on the virtues of recycling, or reminding them that not everything can go in a blue bin. The program was developed and planned by DDB in Edmonton and the media buys were handled by the city’s marketing department.

The audio spots are humorous (featuring, of course, a blue bin singing the blues) and designed to catch people’s attention at that critical do-I-or-don’t-I point, says Pat Church, spokesperson, City of Edmonton waste management division.

‘The concept is to deliver the message right to people when they’re making their decisions,’ he explains. ‘They take their stuff out to their garbage bin, their blue bin, and decide if they’re going to dump it all in one bin or separate it out. So we thought that was a good point at which to deliver the message.’

While the city has had success with their multi-family recycling program to date, he says, surveys indicated that participation rates were slipping and the tonnage of recycling had plateaued after climbing steadily since 2002. As well, city workers had noticed a slight increase in blue bin ‘contamination,’ the result of people throwing non-recyclable items in the bins, which then have to be removed in the recycling facility. This campaign, Church says, is meant to be a ‘booster’ to the city’s ongoing efforts to get people to recycle.

The singing blue bins are being supported with a six-week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekday radio campaign on five local radio stations, transit advertising, and a street team that will roam around high-density locations in Edmonton. The team will set up interactive games in shopping malls, transit hubs and event locations, awarding promo prizes and handing out buttons to those caught in a ‘random act of recycling,’ Church says.