- Some recycling collection trucks in Washington, DC are becoming a lot more noticeable — and brightly colored — because they're wrapped with original artworks by local artists, the Department of Public Works (DPW) announced.
- The 15 trucks will be wrapped through the "Designed to Recycle" initiative, which encourages residents to reduce their landfill waste and pollution. The initiative launched in 2015 with the wrapping of 10 trucks. Through a partnership with the city's Commission on the Arts and Humanities, DPW also will be able to rewrap five of the trucks that received the treatment in 2015 and could use a refresh.
- The first two wrapped trucks hit the streets last Friday and two more will be released each week through September 6.
DC is recognized as one of the cities most actively working over the past two years to advance its zero waste goals, which include eventually diverting 80% of its waste. DPW Director Chris Shorter spoke with Waste Dive last year about the city's major waste management overhaul and getting to 80% diversion through increased recycling and expanding the organics program. The District has since added new items to its recycling stream, including paper and plastic food service items, pizza boxes and plastic grocery containers and trays.
With all of the changes, DC faced the same challenge that municipalities often encounter: devising an educational campaign that residents will actually notice while remaining within budget. Recycling has become such a common practice that many residents don't think twice about it and it's difficult to get their attention for changes to a recycling program or attempts to boost recycling rates. When change does occur, it comes slowly.
Large portions of residents tend to ignore traditional recycling educational campaigns such as fliers or bin stickers announcing changes. More cities and solid waste departments are testing unique tactics for catching customers' attention. But these proposals require extensive time and money, so some cities are partnering with other organizations to devise and fund engaging, effective waste and recycling educational campaigns. Nashville's partnership with the National Resource Defense Council on a food waste competition is one example.
Washington, DC's recycling truck art wrap competition is another way of using unique, eye-catching techniques to grab public attention and turn it toward recycling. The new wrap designs are more directly related to recycling and environmentalism messaging than the original group, reports WAMU.
"Art has been a powerful tool in engaging residents with our agency's work," DPW director Chris Shorter said in a statement. "The wrapped trucks forge a connection between our sanitation teams and the neighborhoods we serve, and our drivers are excited to drive them. We hope these moving pieces of art inspire citizens to remember the vital role they play in the city's sustainability efforts."
The greater U.S. recycling industry is in flux and many residential recycling streams are undergoing rapid change. Some cities continue to add new items to the stream, as did DC, while others pull back on collected items because of the loss of end markets — largely due to China's regulatory measures. Engaging and effective public educational campaigns are more important than ever in this climate.