When it comes to improving recycling and diversion, not all strategic methods have been uniformly successful. While some cities thrive with a single-stream recycling system, others have held onto dual-stream. While some municipalities have refuse truck designing contests, others have contests to design waste and recycling "heroes" — or, in other words, mascots.
Industry mascots can come in all shapes and sizes — some are even CGI-enhanced — proving that educational success is not one-costume-fits-all. Some mascots attend community events or participate in a school curriculum, but all exist for the purpose of actualizing diversion efforts, especially for the youth population.
Just having an educational program and being present in the community serves no point if it isn't reaching the right audience and impacting behavior. Therefore Waste Dive has compiled a list of seven companies and municipalities which have identified a target and created recycling mascots to help spread its messages to the children of their current customers.
Waste Pro: Waste Pro Man
As Waste Pro has slowly and consistently expanded operations over recent years, it also expanded educational efforts. Waste Pro Man, who company officials dub the "caped compacting crusader," was born in 2010 to "spread the truth of recycling and importance of garbage men and women," according to the company. His appearance at events is meant to symbolize the industry's heroic workers — especially for young children learning about the value of waste and recycling.
Chester County, PA Solid Waste Authority: Reecie Recycle and Dudley Do Rot
In the fall of 1993, Chester County officials asked students to design a recycling mascot for use in educational purposes — one that would be printed on t-shirts, turned into a costume, and presented at community events. That 24-year-old mascot is Reecie Recycle, a Chester County staple who was later joined by a composting mascot named Dudley Do Rot. While Dudley is not as social as Reecie, both mascots are critical for pushing Chester County's recycling efforts forward.
Niagara Falls, NY Refuse & Recycling Program: Totes McGoats
In October 2015, Totes McGoats was introduced to the Niagara Falls, NY community as a recycling mascot created by the Sanitation Waste Education Enforcement Team (SWEET) Program Coordinator Brook D'Angelo. One year after the "goat-human" hybrid was introduced, Niagara Falls had increased its recycling rate by 50% and cut the amount of trash it was sending to landfills by nearly 20% — and officials cited Totes as "instrumental" in the success. Talk about improving some baaaaaaad recycling habits.
Niagara Falls has created a new mascot to get kids more involved in recycling. His name? "Totes McGoats." pic.twitter.com/bDxEWgJ0gL— WGRZ (@WGRZ) October 14, 2015
City of St. Albert in Alberta, Canada: Wiser the Minimizer
Wiser the Minimizer is an eight-year-old owl mascot — adapted into a costume from his original 2-D art — who promotes waste reduction and attends special events across St. Albert, including the TD Clean and Green Riverfest. He's featured in educational and outreach materials (including a coloring book) and the city is soon installing a refuse truck wrap with his picture on it.
Montgomery County, OH Environmental Services: Curby the Cardinal and Lucky the Ladybug
Montgomery County has heavily invested in educational mascots, especially in its environmental services department — where the county has Curby the Cardinal and Lucky the Ladybug (along with water services mascots Dewey and Splash). Curby, the oldest of the team, was introduced in February 1991 with the mission to promote "the three Rs" and participate in contests, America Recycles Day, and diversion efforts at community sporting events.
Lucky came along in 2001 to promote litter prevention and awareness — her tagline is "litter bugs me" —and to participate in the community's environmental poetry contest, Litter Bugs Me Day, and community sporting events with Curby.
New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY)
When DSNY isn't engaging with the New York community at food waste fairs or anti-litter basketball campaigns, it's making appearances at various school and sporting events with the help of its four waste and recycling mascots. The oldest of the group, the "waste watcher" trash can, has been around since the late '80s. Since then, the blue and green bins were developed to represent metal, glass, plastic and paper recycling programs, and the brown bin was most recently added to promote the city's organics recycling program. While none of the bins have names, the city hopes to host a naming competition in the near future.
City of New Braunfels, TX Solid Waste & Recycling Division: Scout the Green Raccoon
Scout the Green Raccoon is considered the "centerpiece" of waste reduction and recycling in New Braunfels, TX. While he started as a 2-D character, he was turned into a costumed mascot in 2013 — and has been interacting with the community ever since. He is the focus of an activity book about reduction, offers educational presentations at schools, learning centers and civic, social and business organizations, and has his biography on the New Braunfels website.
Dunn County, WI Solid Waste & Recycling Division: ReCyclone
Dunn County's ReCyclone, dubbed "A Force of Nature for Nature," was created in 2012 with help from a customer at a local children's theater. Her educational purpose is similar to other industry colleagues, yet ReCyclone's tale is one unlike any other:
"There once was a town that had no clue how to manage their trash and recyclables. Everywhere you looked there were mounds of unwanted, discarded items. Unfortunately, the residents had no idea there was a difference between trash and recyclables and they mixed everything together. There were apple cores in with the electronics and waxed milk cartons alongside rusty old bicycles. One day a small twister appeared causing all the unwanted materials to rise into the air. When the dust settled, all that remained were neatly separated piles of recyclables and the masked super hero ReCyclone standing nearby. "I'm a Force of Nature FOR Nature!" ReCyclone announced. The town looked so beautiful that from that day on residents separated their recyclables just as ReCyclone had taught them and the mounds of trash were a thing of the past."