The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is delivering a serious recycling message in a fun way with its newly launched "Know It Before You Throw It" marketing campaign.
The stars of the campaign, which aims to improve both the quality and quantity of material recycled statewide, are the Recycling Raccoons -- because who knows more about trash and recycling than raccoons?
Each member of the Recycling Raccoon Squad has a recycling specialty and a personality to match: Gladys Glass, Paper MacKay, Nyla P. Lastic, Carlos Cardboard, Precious Metale, and Frank, who's an expert in the things that don't fit into the other categories.
EGLE is featuring the Recycling Raccoons on the Know It Before You Throw It website, in various advertising forums (television, print, outdoor, and digital) on social media and at news conferences throughout the state.
"The squad's primary mission is to provide information to Michigan residents about how to recycle properly," said Jack Schinderle, director of EGLE's Materials Management Division. "For example, we want people to reduce the amount of contamination in their recycling bins by keeping out greasy pizza boxes, cans, and jars that still have food in them and machinery-clogging plastic bags."
It's that goal to improve recycling efficiency that gave rise to the campaign's name -- if residents don't know for sure whether something is recyclable, they should ask their local recycling provider or throw it in the trash.
At the same time, EGLE is also working to boost the amount of material recycled in Michigan.
"Michigan was once a leader in recycling, but its current 15% recycling rate is the lowest in the Great Lakes region and among the lowest nationwide," Schinderle said, adding that EGLE's goal is to increase Michigan's recycling rate to 30% by 2025.
Know It Before You Throw It debuted in June, so it's too early to quantify its impact on meeting EGLE's recycling goals.
But it's clear the campaign is resonating with Michigan residents.
Consider some of the comments on the Know It Before You Throw It Facebook page: "I'm glad Michigan has this clever PSA on recycling. People need to know more about how and what to recycle." "I love the Recycling Raccoons." "I have really learned what mistakes I have been making by this campaign ... Good job, recycling people."
EGLE's series of Know It Before You Throw It regional news conferences also have drawn rave reviews from the news media, including the Traverse City Record Eagle, which proclaimed, "Now dumpster-diving raccoons will train us how to recycle again. We approve of EGLE's mascot choice. Raccoons are nimble-fingered opportunists. We can learn from them."
The campaign's first phase has focused on high-level, widely accepted recycling rules.
"Because what can and can't be recycled can vary from community to community, we have urged residents to always check with their local recycling provider if they have a question about anything," Schinderle said.
EGLE will make more customized messaging a priority in 2020, when it begins teaming with various Michigan communities to create local-level marketing materials that promote recycling.
"Ultimately, improving the quality and quantity of recycling in Michigan will have a far-reaching impact by creating jobs and a cleaner environment," Schinderle said.