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Let's face it; a majority of plastic packaging is mistakenly viewed as wasteful after its use. But instead of seeing packaging as trash, why not look at it as something that wants to be recycled? That's the goal of the public service advertising (PSA) campaign by the Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful (KAB), which is designed to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling with the goal to make recycling a daily social norm.

Heather Caliendo

July 30, 2013

4 Min Read
Plastic bottles “dreaming” of being recycled

Let's face it; a majority of plastic packaging is mistakenly viewed as wasteful after its use. But instead of seeing packaging as trash, why not look at it as something that wants to be recycled? That's the goal of the public service advertising (PSA) campaign by the Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful (KAB), which is designed to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling with the goal to make recycling a daily social norm.

"It's all about inspiring individuals and helping to make that emotional connection," Brenda Pulley, senior VP of recycling for Keep America Beautiful, told PlasticsToday. "What we have found is that recycling can be very confusing, and plastics is no exception, and we really want to inspire people and empower them and help this material not be wasted, but be put to a different, better and bigger use. People are intrigued by that."

The average American produces 4.4 lb of trash a day, and on the whole the U.S. produces more 250 million tons of trash a year. But only about 35% is currently recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pulley said while there have been increases in recycling in the past 30 years, the KAB knows it can be better.

According to research released by the Ad Council, only 52% of Americans say that they are "very" or "extremely" knowledgeable about how to properly recycle. Additionally, only 38% say they are "avid recyclers," recycling as much as possible and willing to go out of their way to do so. While there are several barriers to recycling, among the most common reasons given for not recycling are that respondents did not have enough information about where to recycle or what types of materials they are able to recycle.  

"We do believe we can make changes and larger increases over time but there are a host of actions that need to take place," she said. "One is about removing barriers on how do we make recycling easier, and that's the heart of the campaign."

wanna-be-recycled.jpgThe "I Want To Be Recycled" campaign is targeted to motivate Americans to recycle every day, according to the KAB. Created pro bono by San Francisco-based ad agency Pereira & O'Dell, the campaign shows that recyclable materials can be given another life and become something new if someone chooses to recycle.

The campaign directs audiences to IWantToBeRecycled.org, a new website with a localized search tool allowing users to find where to recycle either at their curbside or their nearest recycling center. The website illustrates the recycling process through an interactive infographic and offers detailed information on what materials can be recycled, how they should be recycled and what products they can become in the future.

"The core idea is to tell people to recycle and give their garbage another life. Showing that a bottle has dreams seems like a very powerful yet delicate way of doing it," said PJ Pereira, chief creative officer at Pereira & O'Dell.

This new campaign comes more than four decades after The Ad Council and Keep America created a PSA campaign highlighting how litter and other forms of pollution were hurting the environment. The PSA, which featured Iron Eyes Cody, "The Crying Indian," first aired on Earth Day in 1971 and emphasized that every individual had a personal responsibility to help protect the environment. The ad became one of the most memorable and successful campaigns in advertising history and was named one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th century by Ad Age, according to the news release.

The "I Want To Be Recycled" campaign is funded through Keep America Beautiful by Alcoa Foundation, American Chemistry Council, Anheuser-Busch Foundation, Nestlé Waters North America, Niagara Bottling, Unilever and Waste Management.

The Ad Council is distributing the new PSAs for television, radio, outdoor and digital media to more than 33,000 media outlets nationwide. Following the Ad Council's model, the ads will run in space and time entirely donated by the media.

"We are truly looking to make this campaign a multi-year," Pulley said. "We want to build up more assets in educating and motivating individuals to recycle more. Plastics is one of those examples where there's a real educational opportunity to inform people about what can be recycled and what it can be turned into."

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