It’s not one or the other…experience shows P&E & operational re-enforcements must go hand in hand

Promotion & Education (P&E) is the messaging to residents that builds awareness of the Blue Box program, motivates them to participate, and instructs them on how to do it properly. P&E messaging can be conveyed through a broad range of multi-media tactics and channels – newspapers, billboards, posters, flyers, calendars, guides, TV, radio, social media, apps, etc.

Operational re-enforcement refers to the use of personnel, equipment, by-law or program design feature (e.g. scheduling) to bolster messaging and ensure residents have received the information, understood it, and that they carry out the desired action (e.g. refrain from placing undesired items in the blue box). Examples include: tagging and leaving behind non-targeted materials, lobby displays, etc.

Below are  examples of campaigns that improved their success rates by combining the activities:

City of London: Tag & Leave Behind

Faced with annual contamination costs in the neighborhood of $250,000, the City of London engaged in a three-phased effort to correct the problem. All phases made use of carefully crafted P&E messaging accompanied by an operational re-enforcement, which involved a team of students and collection drivers.

Phase 1

A student team was hired to check blue boxes ahead of the collection vehicles and tag boxes with a simple messages to let residents know they had got something wrong, why it mattered, and how to fix it.

Phase 2

The same student team checked boxes a second time. Again they left notices behind, but this time let residents know their boxes would not be collected in the future, if the behaviour remained unchecked.

Phase 3

The students went out a final time, leaving a note to explain why a blue box was not going to be collected.

The outcome?

Contamination rates dropped from 5-6% to >3%, and London was able to avoid a price increase when negotiating their new processing contract.

The Key Takeaway?

P&E messaging alone is not enough for some residents who paid attention to Blue Box instructions in the P&E materials only when their materials were left behind.

Peel Region: Gravity Locks

In response to contamination rates as high as 35% in its MR Sector, Peel Region piloted a new piece of equipment: gravity locks. The locks were installed on front end loading bins to prevent residents from being able to lift the lids to drop in large garbage bags or construction waste.

In the pilot phase the equipment was installed, but a P&E campaign did not accompany it.

The outcome?

The pilot initiative had some success, but didn’t meet the Region’s expectations. Residents started dumping bagged materials on the ground around the locked bin. Superintendents began disengaging the gravity locks to prevent materials from piling up around the bins.  It appeared an operational re-enforcement did not seem to work as a stand-alone solution either.

In response, Peel staff conducted a second pilot in which staff generated P&E messaging for residents. They also expanded operational re-enforcements by having the Region’s outreach team engage directly with building superintendents and collection contractors to explain  how each group could contribute to the success of the effort.

The Key Takeaway?

Always team operational re-enforcements with a P&E campaign and engage with key stakeholders before you roll out a campaign. In the MR sector this means: residents, superintendents, and contractors with:

  • In person meetings to build trust and lead to better access to residents. For Peel, this meant the building operator was more invested in ensuring the messaging, in this case door knockers, were delivered to every resident and they were more willing to let Peel staff to deliver their own P&E materials, and
  • Consider using videos to demonstrate how technology works.

For more insights into these two projects, please check out the ORW webcast archives. Contact Jessica Landry if you’re interested in joining one of the CIF Working Groups where projects like these are discussed with the goal of establishing Blue Box better practices.