In 2017, Call2Recycle collected more than 8 million pounds of batteries in the U.S. The program develops and deploys campaigns throughout the year to increase awareness and education on safe battery collecting and recycling. Carl Smith, CEO and president of Call2Recycle, Inc. discusses the important role of these campaigns, their development and ultimate goals.
Describe Call2Recycle’s two campaigns—Avoid the Spark and Charge Up Safety Campaign—the origins and what is involved. Call2Recycle started the Charge Up Safety™ campaign, focusing on battery safety, last year. We wanted to promote safety to people that were working in and around our program—it was focused not only on our employee leadership, but also the safety training of our collection sites. How can we manage the safe transport and handling of batteries within our own program? How do we ensure that batteries that come into our program are handled as safely as possible? This is the enduring program that is ongoing for us and we will continue to make changes to it.
The Avoid the Spark. Be Battery Safety Smart.™ campaign is to heighten consumer awareness. We sought to pilot several strategies, particularly in California’s Bay Area, to inspire more safe action in handling battery material. This involved educating the consumers and, ultimately, leading to a change in behavior of how they view battery disposal.
The Avoid the Spark campaign was funded by five different trade associations representing a broad spectrum of industries that wanted to partner with us in looking at what may or may not work to change behaviors and increase awareness of battery safety. It was a two-phase campaign: the first part was in May 2018, focusing on whether we could create enough coverage to gain awareness on the importance of safety issues via the media. We ran a very concentrated week of interviews on radio, television and in print to see if we could get enough traction from an awareness standpoint. The October/November 2018 campaign focused on events and consumer action, trying to take the awareness that we think we gained and communicate that more directly to consumers through events and the county stakeholders.
What was the catalyst for the Charge Up Safety Campaign? Seeing the broader market incidents caused us to be very concerned about overall battery safety. The increase of these incidents is due to a number of factors; however, the severity of incidents is a direct result of the higher energy density of lithium-based batteries.
Why do you think there is still a gap between consumer knowledge and the lack of battery safety? I think that there is generally a lack of knowledge on the issues of waste and how to handle it and the responsibility that goes with purchasing products. We tend to consume more and dispose of more in this country than any other in the world. I think there has to be a catalyst for change in that behavior and it cannot be just in the area of batteries. We are also talking about cans, aluminum, paper and other types of material as well.
What areas have these campaigns been most marketed and why? Charge Up Safety is a nationwide campaign. The Avoid the Spark campaign focused only on California’s Bay Area and its five surrounding counties (Alameda, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara). We used them as an incubator for a variety of our awareness tactics and to try out some techniques that we cannot do in other places.
What have the results been? Since the campaign started, we have seen the handling of batteries in those five counties improve dramatically. Just through media awareness and our own training efforts, we were able to see a significant drop in the rate of unprotected terminals of batteries received through our program from the five-county area, going from a 20 percent unprotected rate in July 2017 to less than 5 percent in September 2018. We are pleased at the response, participation levels and media coverage and will be evaluating our next steps and where we go from here.
How long will these campaigns go on? Charge Up Safety remains our cornerstone campaign focused on battery safety. The Avoid the Spark Pilot program in the Bay Area concluded at the end of November 2018 but we are hoping to take the data and the responsiveness to paint the reactions by the consumers and come up with a set of conclusions of what is affordable, consumer awareness and what the campaign was dependent upon.
How successful have Call2Recycle’s campaigns and programs been? Last year in the U.S, we collected more than 8 million pounds of batteries into our program. These outcomes were thanks to the support of our network, which includes hundreds of stewards along with thousands of municipal and retail partners.
Every campaign we develop is rooted in awareness and education on battery recycling and safety. Success is measured in a variety of ways, including: drops in unprotected terminal rates (which lowers risk for a safety incident), partner engagement/promotion of campaigns (National Battery Day, Spring Battery Hoarder, Go Green Holiday Shopping) across communications channels, media coverage in trade and national outlets, upticks in Web traffic and locator visits. These outcomes indicate engagement with resources with the goal of increasing the act of recycling batteries.
For our recent Avoid the Spark campaign, several factors shaped the impact of the public education pilot. The campaign included a Web page, which hosts a number of battery safety resources (including Spanish versions) for public consumption. The first month that the Web page launched, it generated 13,000 pageviews and more than 800 downloads of materials. In conjunction with a handful of county-partner supported collection events, promotion on county and industry websites, social media and media interviews, the effort made noise and attracted attention. Since the campaign wrapped in November, we have received several inquiries on how to engage resources from various locations outside of the Bay Area. These factors combined tell us that there is an interest in learning more about safe battery practices and an appetite for information. While certain factors will continue to impact the collection of batteries (embedded batteries, shrinking footprint of brick-and-mortar stores that collect batteries, lack of consistent/national recycling practices), Call2Recycle remains steadfast in its commitment to educate on battery recycling in order to preserve the planet.
For more information about the Avoid the Spark campaign, visit www.avoidthespark.com.
For more information, visit www.call2recycle.org.
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