2018 Summary


Food Diversion Cart Tag Study
Food Diversion Cart Tag Study

Food Diversion Cart Tag Study

Cart tags increased food scrap composting by 38% and food scrap diversion by 24% in pilot area.

In 2016, Waste Management participated in the Food Scraps Diversion Cart Tag Study coordinated by the King County Solid Waste Division The study took place over 18 months in three pilot areas throughout King County in late 2015 through early 2017. It evaluated whether placing educational tags that encourage food scraps composting on residential curbside garbage carts would increase household participation in composting. The study also assessed whether the frequency of cart tag application (quarterly or twice per year) affected the impact of the cart tags on resident behavior.

For households in many parts of King County, including unincorporated areas serviced by Waste Management, participation in food scraps diversion and yard waste collection is voluntary. However, increasing household participation is essential for reducing environmental impacts and achieving countywide waste diversion goals. So, with that in mind, the tags were designed using community-based social marketing principles to prompt households to put their food scraps and food soiled paper in their yard waste carts.

As part of the study, households on three of Waste Management's residential organics routes in unincorporated King County (including one route each in the Redmond Ridge, Sammamish and Woodinville areas) received up to four tags in 2016-2017, depending on the frequency assigned to their address. Only households that already subscribed to organics collection service and that had either a garbage or yard waste cart set out during tagging received tags.

Three waste audits were conducted as part of the study: one prior to cart tag placement, one six months into the tagging activity and the last after the placement of all tags (approximately one year later). Waste audits involved sorting waste samples collected from randomly selected households on each route.

The study found that household participation rates in food scrap composting increased by 38 percent (from 40% to 55%) on Waste Management routes. Food scraps capture rates, which describe the percentage of all food generated by a household that is placed in the compost bin for diversion, also increased among households on Waste Management routes who received cart tags by 24 percent (from 59% to 73%).

These findings indicate that cart tags can be an effective strategy for increasing food scraps diversion, both by prompting participation by households not previously composting food scraps, and by increasing diversion among households already participating.

Organics Contamination Focus Group
Organics Contamination Focus Group
In November 2017, Waste Management conducted an online panel focus group to inform educational efforts aimed at decreasing curbside compost contamination. The objectives were to discover the primary barriers and motivators to reducing contamination and gain insights on how to best educate customers on the highest priority materials to keep out of yard waste carts: glass and plastic.

The study was conducted online over a one-week period in November with 28 participants within unincorporated King County who are subscribed to yard waste service and of diverse gender and age. The discussion guide was designed to help better understand composting behaviors, knowledge and uncover key points of confusion. It answered questions like: "Do customers know where compost goes? Are they using the service? Do they buy or use compost at home? Which items are trickiest for them to categorize?" The study also provided feedback on specific messages that might motivate customers to reduce contamination, how they would like to receive those messages and tested images used on guides to ensure they are easily recognizable.

The focus group helped identify two different composter personas with different levels of knowledge, habits, concerns and preferences: savvy composters and convenience composters. Key composting barriers were limited space in kitchens for containers and concerns about animals getting into outdoor compost carts. The research showed that reasons for keeping glass out of compost were well understood, but reasons for keeping plastics out are more challenging.

Key takeaways were that educational information should continue to be provided in multiple formats (cart tags, guides, brochures and online) with varying levels of information. In terms of messaging, information about the lifecycle of compost - from bin to farm and garden, and ultimately more food - was compelling to participants and a good tool for highlighting the negative impacts of contamination. Potentially rebranding yard waste carts as compost carts would also help solidify this connection.

Study designed to test different messaging approaches for reducing curbside compost contamination.

Organics Contamination Reduction Workgroup
Organics Contamination Reduction Workgroup
Waste Management participates in the regional Organics Contamination Reduction Workgroup to tackle contamination in the organics stream from a variety of angles. For example, Waste Management brings expertise to the Education and Outreach subcommittee and the Policy subcommittee.

In 2017, Waste Management continued to support the workgroup through participation in meetings, feedback on best practices and working with the City of Kirkland to refine strategies for cart tagging. The workgroup created a report and toolkit that will guide the state in creating best practices and reducing contamination in organics.

New report will guide Washington state best practices.

Organics Contamination Work Group Pilot
Organics Contamination Work Group Pilot
Waste Management participates in the regional Organics Contamination Reduction Workgroup (OCRW), a group formed to tackle contamination in the organics stream from a variety of angles. Waste Management brings expertise to the Education and Outreach subcommittee and the Policy subcommittee.

In 2016, Waste Management collaborated on a pilot project to test cart tagging protocols developed by the OCRW Policy subcommittee. The pilot aimed to identify improvements to cart tagging protocols and assess the effectiveness in reducing contamination in the organics waste stream. In September, Waste Management residential and commercial food/yard waste drivers identified contamination in plain sight and applied a cart tag, which initiated varying levels of outreach from Waste Management staff. The findings of this pilot will be published in the Organics Contamination Reduction Workgroup's 2016 report.

Pilot project tested cart tagging protocols

2016 Compost Deliveries
Partnering with Snohomish County and Washington State University Extension, Waste Management supported compost deliveries to farms in Snohomish County. Through this partnership, nearly 1,500 cubic yards of compost were delivered to 32 local farms. This project helped Waste Management learn more about the barriers and benefits to applying compost to local farms. Some key findings include:

  • Compost generally has a beneficial impact on crop production and soil quality

  • The top barriers to using compost in agriculture are compost price, spreading equipment and time, compost delivery, plastic contamination, and lack of information

  • Creating opportunities for interaction between farmers and compost providers is essential for forming a connection between these industries

  • Compost price is variable, reflecting changes in seasonal sales and supply and demand market forces, making it difficult for farmers to plan their budget year-to-year

  • Christmas trees have shown substantial growth using compost and may be a good target market for municipal compost

Nearly 1,500 cubic yards of compost delivered to 32 local farms

All You Can Shovel Events

For the third year in a row, Waste Management teamed with Cedar Grove to host the popular All You Can Shovel event. On August 6, a special postcard was mailed to 37,622 Snohomish County food and yard waste customers, inviting them to shovel a vehicle-load of free compost at the Cedar Grove composting facility in Everett. On August 15, 327 households attended the event, shoveling approximately 350 yards of free compost and receiving tips and tools on curbside composting. This educational event helped customers see how the food scraps and food-soiled paper that they add into their curbside compost cart can be transformed into nutrient-rich compost for yards and gardens.

Compost Days
From March 15 to April 15, 2015, Waste Management, King County, Cedar Grove and Seattle Public Utilities partnered once again to host the sixth annual Compost Days, a recurring seasonal promotion designed to educate residents about the value of composting, increase compost sales and show residents appreciation for their dedication to curbside composting.

During the campaign, residents could get deep discounts on Cedar Grove compost at 129 participating retailers through a "Buy Two, Get One Bag Free" coupon. For every coupon redeemed during the campaign, the Big Garden Give compost drive donated a bag of compost to local gardens growing food for low-income residents. This resulted in 1,119 yards of free compost donations. Eleven elementary schools with food-growing gardens also participated in the Keep Compost Clean produce sticker card competition to teach kids about proper composting practices and to remind them that stickers do not belong in the compost. For every full card turned in to their teacher, one bag of compost was donated to their school garden. Partnering with 11 area schools and reaching more than 3,500 students, teachers and parents/guardians, more than 1,200 cards were turned in, earning 45 truck loads of free compost for school gardens. Multiple TV outlets, blogs and community papers covered this campaign with a total reach of 5 million impressions.

Keep Compost O'Natural! Produce Sticker Trading Card
The Keep Compost O'Natural! Produce Sticker Trading Card was developed to educate customers on a main source of contamination found in compost: plastic stickers on produce. Customers were prompted to fill up their card with produce stickers and then redeem it for a free bag of compost at the Cedar Grove landscape yards.

In March, 2015, the incentive program garnered national attention through a story in the New York Times, "Even Composting Comes with Sticker Shock." Throughout the year, customers continued to bring in the card and even created their own homemade sticker cards, for a total of 2,700 redemptions in 2015. After surprisingly high engagement, Cedar Grove found that they were unable to continue giving out free bags of compost at the rate of customer participation.

In June 2015, a final version of the card was created, offering a 15 percent discount with an expiration date of October 31, 2015. The card was distributed at Waste Management's Recycling Information Station at fairs, festivals and farmers markets. The Produce Sticker Trading Card was a highly successful awareness tool; however, the majority of customers were more enticed by free, rather than reduced, compost. Only 12 customers redeemed their card for a discounted bag of compost.

Door-to-Door Container Delivery Pilot and Follow-Up Survey
As a follow up to the highly successful direct mail campaign in 2013, which resulted in over 5,000 Foodcycling pledges, the Waste Management team conducted a pilot project to test engagement and cost through a new distribution method - door-to-door delivery.

In early March 2015, 409 kitchen compost containers were distributed along a Waste Management route in King County in the Auburn, Wash. WUTC area. The goal of the pilot was to test the cost and logistics for full route distribution and determine whether customers would take the pledge if given a container versus using the container as an incentive to take the pledge. The container included collateral material encouraging customers to take the Foodcycling pledge online, a flier with Foodcycler quotes, Residential Compost Collection Guidelines and a Bio-Bag™ compostable bag sample. The container and materials were delivered to customers by two outreach staffers over the course of four days. The overall cost for the door-to-door delivery method was $8.71 more per container than the cost of distribution following the direct mail campaign. The pilot also yielded only two pledges, a .5 percent uptake, which is significantly lower than we have seen with opt-in efforts.

In April 2015, a phone survey was conducted to follow up on the results of the door-to-door delivery. During the survey, the majority of customers said they composted using the container given to them or one they already had and uses the container daily, though, they have no interest in taking the Foodcycling pledge. Customers expressed an interest in additional incentives and being contacted via direct mail. A direct mail incentive postcard was then sent to customers offering the incentive of a one month or a six month supply of free compostable bags which resulted in 18 more pledges.

The pilot determined that customers are more likely to become and stay engaged when they opt-in to a composting program, and direct mail with an incentive is the most effective way to engage customers. The difference in pledge responses between the 2013 direct mailer and the tactics used in the 2015 Auburn Compost Pilot confirms that the promise of a free kitchen compost container, closely followed by compostable bags, is a strong incentive for encouraging customers to take the Foodcycler pledge and become part of Waste Management's ongoing dialog around composting.

All You Can Shovel Events

Snohomish County and the Waste Management team hosted the second annual All You Can Shovel events in May and August, to help motivate residents to start composting food scraps, yard debris, and food-soiled paper. Event attendees were invited to take home as much free compost as they could shovel into their vehicles - they came with shovels in hand and the largest vehicles they owned or could rent! 271 participants left with 693 yards of free compost, equivalent to a thin layer spread across seven football fields. 239 of those event attendees took a Foodcycling pledge to start composting food scraps, yard debris, and foodsoiled paper; in exchange, they received tips and tools on composting, and a free kitchen compost container.

Compost Days

In the spring of 2014, the Waste Management team hosted Compost Days as a way to say thank you to Snohomish and King County WUTC residents for diverting 350,000 tons of food, food-soiled paper and yard debris from landfills. During the month-long celebration, residents received deep discounts on Cedar Grove Compost at 130 area retailers and discounts on kitchen containers and compostable bags at Fred Meyer stores. Local gardens also benefited from the campaign. The Big Garden Give, the region's first-ever compost drive, provided 1,119 yards of free compost to more than 120 gardens that grow food for low-income residents. Snohomish and King County WUTC customers were reached through earned media, paid media and direct mail. Multiple TV outlets, blogs and community papers covered this campaign with a total reach of over 9 million impressions. The campaign received two Totem awards from the Public Relations Society of America - Puget Sound Chapter, including Best in Show.

Keep Compost O'Natural Produce Sticker Trading Card
The number one type of garbage put in compost by mistake are the plastic stickers found on fruit and vegetables. To educate customers and reduce contamination, the Waste Management team produced a Keep Compost O' Natural Produce Sticker Trading Card where residents were incentivized to collect produce stickers on their cards and exchange a full card at a Cedar Grove landscaping facility for a free bag of compost. Waste Management mailed the trading card to 46,469 Snohomish County residents, sent an e-blast to Foodcyclers in Snohomish County, gave the card out at the Scrap Happy Kitchen demo events in King County and added a downloadable version to the Foodcycling website. To date, more than 1,600 residents have redeemed full trading cards for free compost in Snohomish County, some even put produce stickers on handmade cards with their own paper. The results are in line with the industry standard 3.5 percent redemption rate; an impressive redemption rate considering the call-to-action required additional steps compared to typical direct mail call-to-action request. The campaign received coverage in The New York Times in an article focused on the impact of the produce stickers in curbside composting.

Compost to Farm Trials
Click Here for a larger view Waste Management, in partnership with Snohomish County Solid Waste, has collaborated with Washington State University (WSU) Snohomish County Extension's pilot program to test the impact of commercial compost on local farms. The Snohomish County Agricultural Compost Research and Outreach Project (SCACROP).

SCACROP allows researchers to build local soil quality, to evaluate the effect of using compost and to connect local farmers with resources. Through the outreach program, farmers receive 50 cubic yards (one semi-trailer load) of commercial compost to use in a side-by-side crop comparison study.

Nearly 60 local farmers have used more than 3,500 tons of commercial compost from Cedar Grove, Baily Compost and Lenz Enterprises through the trials. Participating farms have reported that applying compost to farmland has increased crop yields and size of produce, as well as increased nitrogen levels, soil workability, water retention and the amount of organic matter within the soil. Farmers also report that produce has improved flavor.

Waste Management has funded the double-screening process and delivery for the compost, developed educational messages and materials about the foodcycle loop, participated in the spring WSU Ag Compost stakeholder workshop, and codeveloped educational posters used by seasonal "agritainment" destinations like u-pick blueberry fields, pumpkin patches and holiday tree farms.

Compost Campaigns

Big Dig Events

All You Can Shovel.

I'm a Foodcycler!

I'm a Foodcycler!

More Organics Outreach promotions:

All You Can Shovel postcard
Foodcycler Decal Instruction Sheet
Foodcycler Direct Mail
WM Foodcycler Report

Develop and implement new outreach programs and strategies that increase resident understanding of the local, closed-loop compost system; increase resident understanding about what can be composted; and decrease placement of non-program materials in the curbside compost carts.

In early 2013, WM met with regional compost stakeholders-Cedar Grove Composting, King County, Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle Tilth, Snohomish County and Washington State University-to outline collaborative strategies that would improve the quality of curbside compost, decrease contamination, and raise awareness about the local home-to-garden compost "loop".

As a result of this collaborative planning, WM launched five organics outreach strategies in Snohomish County:

  1. Support for WSU Sustainability Stewards volunteer program (formerly WSU Carbon Master) by advertising their program in two regional newspapers.

  2. Support for WSU Snohomish County Agricultural Compost Research and Outreach Project by sponsoring delivery of 1,708 cubic yards of compost to 36 local farms.

  3. Compost Days and Big Dig Events (both King and Snohomish Counties participated in Compost Days): Compost Days ran from March 15 - April 15, 2013. The campaign consisted of a region-wide scavenger hunt to find "Corey," the compostable apple core. Corey appeared on posters at 48 participating retail locations in King, Seattle and Snohomish Counties. A map of Corey's locations was hosted on the Compost Days website at www.compostdays.com. Those who found Corey and registered the location online instantly won a free bag of compost and a chance to participate in one of the Big Dig events.

  4. "All You Can Shovel" spring and fall customer appreciation events: Current curbside compost customers were invited to come to one of two special events held on May 18 and August 17, where they could shovel as much bulk compost into their vehicle as they could in 20 minutes.

  5. "I'm a Foodcycler!" Campaign: In July, 32,500 current curbside compost customers were sent a direct mail piece encouraging them to take the "I'm a Foodcycler" pledge to place food and food-soiled paper in their curbside yard debris cart. The first 500 to take the online pledge were mailed a free kitchen food scrap container. The mailer also included residential compost guidelines, a detailed description of the local home-to-garden Foodcycle and encouraged customers to join the Foodcycling community.

During the Compost Days campaign, a total of 103,100 bags of compost were sold, 34,922 people visited the Compost Days website, 18,979 people took the composting quiz on the campaign website, 1,115 compost coupons were redeemed from the campaign website, and 40 people signed up to dig at the Lynnwood Big Dig (88 at the Ballard and Renton events).

Between the two "All You Can Shovel" events, 620 customers drove to the Cedar Grove Everett facility and dug over 1,000 cubic yards of bulk compost. Customers came to the event from as far away as Gold Bar, Sultan and Monroe, and some rented trailers and pick-up trucks for the event.

In the first two days after mailing the "I'm a Foodcycler" campaign packet, 2,200 WUTC residents went online and took the Foodcycler pledge-an 8.4 percent participation rate. By the end of the campaign, a total of 2,800 residents had taken the pledge. Residents who took the pledge were given a Foodcycling decal for their curbside compost cart, matching the decal on their kitchen compost container, and invited to submit a photo of their family using the new kitchen container. Photos were entered into a raffle drawing for a $250 gift card to a local nursery. As part of the campaign development process, WM created new educational tools, including a Foodcycling loop graphic, a Foodcycler website, key messages and new curbside compost guidelines.

Compost Days and Big Dig Events

In Snohomish County, direct mail proved to be the most effective way to inform customers about the campaign.

The Lynnwood Big Dig postcard invitation was cited as being the No. 1 way in which Snohomish County WUTC residents learned about the Compost Days campaign, and many brought their postcard to the event.

While there was an element of the campaign focused on raising awareness about the importance of reducing contamination-plastic especially- this could be a more defined element of future Compost Days campaigns.

"All You Can Shovel" Events

Apart from the challenge of finding the site, all 620 WUTC participants reported a positive experience when interviewed on their way out of the Cedar Grove facility. Many asked if the event would be held again, and shared their gratitude for the opportunity to bring compost back to their gardens. According to Cedar Grove staff, this was the most successful and well-received event they have ever had.

"I'm a Foodcycler!" Campaign

The unprecedented success of this campaign raised the bar for future Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM) campaigns for WUTC customers. The biggest lesson learned concerned the use of auto-reply emails to customers, automatically generated when they took the online pledge. So many people took the pledge in the first two days after receiving the Foodcycling mailer that more than 1,700 customers falsely received notification that they were "one of the first 500" to take the pledge. In future campaigns, auto-reply messages will be written to acknowledge the receipt of the pledge, and a separate follow-up email will be sent to customers notifying them of their eligibility for the advertised incentive.

WM addressed this issue by securing additional funding to purchase kitchen compost containers for all 1,700 who received the "Congratulations!" auto-reply message, and organized eight days where qualifying customers could pick up their containers at the WSU Extension office at McCollum Park in south Everett. A special thanks to the WSU staff, WSU Master Gardeners and WSU Sustainability Steward volunteers for helping to distribute containers.

Curbside Composting Promotion

Foodcycler Program
Foodcycler Program

Foodcycler Program

Waste Management's Foodcycler program has converted thousands of residents into active composters since 2013. In 2017, the program successfully recruited 167 new King County customers to join the online Foodcycling community through Facebook ads and community events. Two Facebook recruitment ads encouraged WM customers in King County UTC areas to begin their foray into curbside composting by taking the Foodcycler pledge in exchange for 10 compostable bags and the chance to win a countertop food scrap collection bin. The two ads ran for one week each and resulted in 83 new pledges. Using Facebook to recruit new Foodcyclers proved to be a more cost-effective recruitment method compared to sending direct mail to yard waste subscribers, which was completed in the second half of 2016 and resulted in only 32 pledges with the same incentive.

King County's community of Foodcyclers is now 5,090 strong across both King and Snohomish Counties. To continue to keep the community engaged and motivated, Waste Management sent out a quarterly e-newsletter to the group in 2017. Topics provided readers with a variety of helpful tips and tricks on how to improve their composting skills and included ideas for dealing with confusing items and pesky fruit flies, packing a compostable picnic and composting during the holidays. The Foodcycler e-newsletter was highly effective at capturing subscriber attention with an average open rate of 40 percent (roughly double the industry benchmark!) and the most popular email had an open rate of 53 percent.

2017 Foodcyler Newsletter Schedule:

Open Rate
Compost Life Cycle
Compost Quiz on Confusing Items
Planning a Compostable Picnic
Holiday Composting

The e-blast addressing top composting misconceptions had a 53% open rate, more than double the national average!

2016 Foodcycler Program

Download the Flyer

A November E-blast had a
42% open rate, 110 percent higher than the national average

Waste Management continued outreach efforts to the existing community of King County Foodcyclers providing ongoing education on curbside composting. The e-blasts were sent to this existing list of Foodcyclers in King County to continue engaging them in composting behavior. Content was planned on a 2016-2017 editorial calendar, addressing relevant topics throughout the two-year campaign.

Starting in late August, 2016, a total of three e-blasts were sent to Foodcyclers. The open rate averaged 40 percent, twice the industry standard for email marketing. An early November e-blast titled, "Compost Fans Unite!" included tailgating tips and ways to reduce yard debris in the fall. This e-blast resulted in an impressive 42 percent average open rate, 110 percent higher than the national average. It also garnered over a dozen individual responses from Foodcyclers with personal tips and suggestions to share with the community. The successful Foodcycler e-blast campaign will continue quarterly in 2017 with tips to make composting easier, clarify confusing items, and provide incentives, promotions and details on upcoming events.

Open Rate
Summertime Composting
Fall Composting:
Compost Fans Unite!
Foodcycler: Make 2017 Your Greenest Year Yet

Foodcycler Recruitment through Direct Mail

To grow the Foodcycling community in 2016, the highly successful direct mail flier from 2013 was repurposed and mailed to 1,342 customers who had signed up for food and yard waste service within the previous three months. Customers were encouraged to take the Foodcycling pledge online in exchange for a sample of BioBag™ compostable bags and a coupon with a discount for additional bags. The mailing resulted in 32 pledges, a 2.4 percent uptake, which is less than half the average response rate for direct mail and significantly less than the 5,000 responses to the 2013 direct mail which offered a free kitchen compost container.

Container Distribution Planning

Waste Management is identifying locations to hold food waste container distribution events. These would provide the remaining Foodcyclers in King County who have not yet received a container an opportunity to pick one up.

2015 - Foodcycler Program
To motivate King and Snohomish County residents to continue composting and make lasting behavior changes, Waste Management continued its successful Foodcycler campaign. In early 2015, Waste Management selected a carrot to replace the apple in the Foodcycling logo due to a request from the Washington Department of Ecology (WDE). The hope for this replacement is to prevent resident confusion over WDE's efforts to keep maggot-infested apples out of the compost collection.

Throughout the year, a total of nine e-blast communications were sent to Foodcyclers to regularly communicate announcements and curbside composting tips and tricks. The open rate for these e-blasts averaged 40 percent, twice the industry standard. An early November e-blast titled, "Tips on Confusing Items," had a 51 percent average open rate (155 percent higher than the national average), and resulted in over a dozen individual responses from Foodcyclers.

In late July, the Waste Management team sent an email survey to 5,440 Foodcyclers in King and Snohomish Counties to find out if they were still composting, if they knew proper techniques, how the current program was working and what would motivate them to do more. 930 Foodcyclers completed the survey for a 38 percent completion rate. More than 90 percent of Foodcyclers reported using their kitchen container to compost food scraps daily. The survey also showed that many customers are now advocates for composting-a large number of respondents said they are spreading the word to friends and family members. Quotes from Foodcyclers in response to e-blasts, including the survey, were compiled into a one-page flier to help urge additional WUTC residents to take the Foodcycling pledge and join the community of composters.

Foodcycler Program
To motivate residents to start composting food scraps, yard debris, and food soiled paper, Waste Management continued the successful I'm a Foodcycler campaign in King and Snohomish Counties. In 2014 at the All You Can Shovel and Scrap Happy Kitchen: Sammamish Farmers Market events, Waste Management added 271 new Foodcycler pledges to the list of 5,275 total residents who signed the pledge in 2013. In March, the Waste Management team sent an email survey to all Foodcyclers in King and Snohomish Counties to learn more about attitudes and barriers to composting. 5,147 people responded, most within the first day. A large percentage of Foodcyclers (88 percent) reported using their kitchen container to compost food scraps daily. Throughout the year, e-blast communications were sent to Foodcyclers to regularly communicate announcements, events, and curbside composting tips and tricks. The September Trading Card e-blast had a 44 percent open rate and 13 percent click-through rate; the open rate was more than twice the industry standard of 20 percent.

Scrap Happy Kitchen Chef Demo Events

Scrap Happy Kitchen demonstrations, waste-free recipes, and free food samples from Safeway's Chef, Nicole Aloni, provided King County Waste Management WUTC residents a fun and delicious way to learn tips and tricks for composting. The Waste Management team set up the Scrap Happy Kitchen booth at three well-attended King County farmers markets: Sammamish Farmers Market, Celebrate Woodinville, and the Auburn International Farmers Market. 43,364 King County customers who live in the WUTC were invited to the event nearest to them; there, they received free compostable bags, composting education and free samples of waste-free recipes. The 1,361 Foodcyclers who had taken the Foodcycling pledge but had not yet received a container were also invited to the event to pick up their free container. Through the Scrap Happy Kitchen booths, Waste Management reached 600 residents. A total of 156 kitchen containers were distributed at these events, a 12 percent redemption rate-just over two times higher than the 3.5 percent average redemption rate.

Door-to-Door Program

Door-to-door outreach staff achieved an overall project sign-up rate of 2.5 percent.

Read the King County food and yard waste direct mail letter, mailed to WM customers who did not have curbside yard waste service.

A Pledge Form encourages customers to change their behavior with a Cedar Grove Compost coupon as incentive.

Initiate a door-to-door outreach and educational effort to further increase the diversion of compostable materials by increasing yard waste collection subscription rates in the WUTC areas of King County. WM contracted with Cascadia Consulting Group, Inc. (Cascadia) to assist in designing, implementing, and evaluating this grass roots pilot project in 2013 yard waste collection service includes green waste, food scraps, compostable paper, and other biodegradable items acceptable by King County's composting processors.

The primary goals of the project were to:

  • Maximize single-family yard waste collection subscription sign-ups at the lowest cost

  • Increase customer loyalty and satisfaction with WM and King County through the highest quality customer service and professionalism

  • Deliver effective customer education to reduce contamination and sustain participation over time

A direct mail letter was sent to a subset of WM customers who did not have curbside yard waste service. The letter promoted yard waste service subscription and facts about recycling food scraps. Outreach staff were then deployed to follow up with these customers with a door-to-door visit to offer additional educational materials and sign residents up for yard waste service in-person using iPads.

Between June and September of 2013, two letters were sent to 12,015 WM customers and outreach staff visited 9,244 of these customers through a large-scale, door-to-door outreach campaign. Of the total customers that were contacted in this effort, 298 subscribed to yard waste service for an overall project sign-up rate of 2.5 percent. The sign-up rate for customers that received both the letter and spoke with an outreach staffer increased slightly to 2.9 percent.

Among the 3,888 residents that outreach staff spoke with at the doorstep, 2,248 residents (62 percent) accepted educational materials. Of the 82 residents that signed up at the door, 53 pledged to recycle food scraps and 27 of those that pledged (51 percent) redeemed coupons at local Fred Meyer supermarkets.

A very high percentage of residents (22 percent) in the WUTC areas of King County had "No Solicitation" signage on their premises. Outreach staff did not approach those residents.

Efforts should continue with residents in the WUTC outreach areas to inform and educate about food scrap recycling and the importance of composting. Direct mail, when used exclusively, resulted in a 1.1 percent sign-up rate and may provide a low-cost opportunity for future efforts in the WUTC areas that contain a large percentage of "No Solicitor" signage.

To better assess attrition trends, tracking and monitoring systems for WUTC customers should be established to gather data on peak seasons for sign-up and cancellation. Based on this information, WM can better target customers with direct mailings at key times throughout the year.

Yard Waste Sign-Up Incentive Program

The first 1,000 customers to sign up for recycling or compost service received their choice of a Recycling Kit: either a sturdy reusable bag to collect and transport recyclables from the home to the recycling cart; or a Food Scrap Collection Kit.

View the Snohomish County "Close the Loop" campaign materials.

In King County, Waste Management created an incentive program for WUTC customers that was designed to encourage new subscriptions for curbside recycling and compost collection services. The goal of the incentive program was to motivate residential garbage customers to subscribe to recycling and compost service.

In Snohomish County a "Close the Loop" campaign was launched in an effort to help WUTC customers connect the dots between curbside compost collection and the local compost created from these efforts. A coupon for bulk and bagged compost and a lettuce seed packet was mailed to all residential customers, along with a campaign flyer encouraging new curbside compost sign-ups.

The goal of this incentive program was to raise awareness about the availability of locally produced, curb-to-garden compost, incentivize the purchase of bulk and bagged compost, and educate customers about the role they can play in the local compost "loop".

In King County, a letter was sent to all residents who did not have recycling or curbside yardwaste service. On a first-come, first-served basis, the first 1,000 customers who responded and signed up for service were given their choice of a recycling kit. The kit was comprised of a sturdy reusable bag created specifically to collect and transport recyclables from the home to the recycling cart; or a food scrap collection kit made up of a 3-gallon Orbis kitchen countertop compost pail and a roll of 25 compostable pail liners. Both kits were mailed along with a copy of the King County Recycling Guide.

In Snohomish County, a "Close the Loop" letter, Cedar Grove Composting coupon and lettuce seed packet were mailed to 86,600 UTC residents; 15,000 extra "Close the Loop" lettuce seed packets were given to Cedar Grove and the Washington State University Extension Carbon Master program staff, for handing out to Snohomish County residents at community events.

In King County as a result of the Zero Waste Partnership incentive campaign, 500 residential UTC customers signed up for Food/Yard Waste service and received a free compost kit, and 12 residential UTC customers signed up for Recycling service and received a free recycling tote.

A letter was mailed to the 21,910 customers who are not currently signed-up for recycling and/or yard and food waste service. The first 1,000 customers who called in and signed up for service were mailed their choice of a Bagit System reusable and washable recycling tote bag or an Orbis countertop compost pail and a roll of 25 BioBag 3-gallon compostable bags. Each incentive package included a copy of the King County Recycling Guide.

In Snohomish County, Cedar Grove customer service staff reported a high volume of calls in response to the "Close the Loop" direct mail campaign coupon. As a result of the coupon, five yards of bulk compost and 52 individual bags of compost were sold at the Cedar Grove Composting site in Everett. The Fred Meyer "three for two" coupon on the back of the seed packets was not well utilized - a total of 13 coupons were redeemed.

In Snohomish County, Cedar Grove customer service staff reported a high volume of calls in response to the "Close the Loop" direct mail campaign coupon.

In King County, there was significant and ongoing interest in the kitchen compost collection pails. After the initial spike of customer response to the campaign mailing in February 2013, we received consistent FYW sign-ups, averaging 8-15 a week through October 2013, when the 500th kitchen compost collection pail was distributed, and the campaign was officially complete.

While several customers did request the recycling tote bags, these were not a significant motivator to engage customers in increasing or adding recycling or composting service.

Food Scrap Collection PR/Marketing Campaign

The chefs were featured in 11 local community newspaper ads, handouts at events, posters, through social media and on Waste Management's website.

Online and print ads
Handouts & Posters
Social Media
Waste Management website

Find out what we learned from our events! Read our event reports.

Take a look at the event media schedules and media hits.

Food Scrap Recycling Pledge

Raise awareness about how to recycle food scraps and food soiled paper by developing an earned and paid media campaign to promote increased collection of food scraps and food soiled paper and the importance of keeping it clean in King and Snohomish Counties.

Starting in summer 2012, Waste Management developed a recycling education and outreach campaign aimed at promoting food scrap and food soiled paper recycling throughout Waste Management's King and Snohomish County WUTC service areas. To educate residents about how to better recycle food scraps and food soiled paper and encourage new account sign ups, the team developed the "Waste-Free Cooking" campaign that brought a sense of fun and simplicity to the sometimes daunting topic of food scrap recycling.

At five community events, the team collaborated with local celebrity chefs Lisa Dupar of Pomegranate Bistro and Lisa Dupar Catering and Adam Hoffman of Adam's Northwest Bistro and Brewery to teach people how to become better home food scrap recyclers. The chefs brought notoriety and attracted residents to the events as well as demonstrated that it's easy to recycle food scraps and food soiled paper.

At the events, the chefs demonstrated some of their signature recipes while providing cooking and food scrap recycling tips. As the chefs cooked, they chatted with attendees while the outreach education team distributed recipe samples, tip sheets and answered food scrap recycling questions. They also encouraged residents to take a food scrap recycling pledge. The pledge is an agreement to recycle food scraps and food soiled paper at home which is a proven method of encouraging sustained behavior change. The chefs and outreach team collected 403 pledges from attendees.

The cooking demonstrations were promoted using paid media. The chefs were featured in 11 local community newspaper ads, as well as on Waste Management's website, encouraging food scrap recycling and announcing upcoming events. The team also worked to have stories placed with local media about food scrap recycling and upcoming events, earning several community blog posts and an appearance by Lisa Dupar on Q13 Fox News This Morning.

Paid media impressions 1,100,590
Earned media placements 4
Earned media impressions 22,950
Community outreach events 5
Food Scrap Recycling Pledges gathered 403

Using local celebrities is an effective draw for local residents at events and make new recycling services popular and easier to start at home. The use of free giveaways is a powerful incentive to draw people in and engage in conversations that answer questions which could be barriers to recycling. Waste Management also found that community events that allow for face-to-face outreach are an effective way of educating residents about curbside recycling. Community events should be evaluated for timing, attendance and theme. Lots of residents attend community events with their families in the Spring and Summer - we found that community events such as farmers markets or annual celebrations make the best venues for this type of outreach as people are there to relax and explore the booths and activities. The opportunities to engage in a conversation about recycling which these events offer are a good investment of resources.

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