CAMPAIGNS: Public Affairs - Atlanta boosts litter awareness

Client:City of Atlanta

Client:City of Atlanta

Client:City of Atlanta

PR Team: Atlanta Environmental Communications

Campaign: Atlanta Stream Cleanup Public Awareness and Education


Time Frame: January 1999 to present

Budget: dollars 350,000

Known for its trees, traffic and air pollution, Atlanta faced a new

challenge in 1998 when the federal government ordered a city cleanup of

urban streams. Trickling through backyards and neighborhood parks, the

waterways contained decades worth of used tires, appliances, clothes and

every other kind of human trash imaginable.

Responding to a negotiated consent decree with the US Environmental

Protection Agency and other agencies and groups, the city began a

one-year, dollars 5-million stream cleanup in October 1998, with a

required PR component.

’We were mandated to retrieve all litter larger than a cigarette butt

from 37 miles of city streams,’ says Marilyn Johnson, public information

manager for the city’s Division of Wastewater Services. ’We also had to

find a way to help people understand the enormity of the problem.’ To

convey that message, Johnson retained Atlanta Environmental

Communications, a PR firm that specializes in environmental issues.


’Our biggest challenge was to change human behavior, and we didn’t have

much planning time,’ says Theresa Walker, vice president of Atlanta

Environmental Communications, which began work in January 1999 and

introduced the campaign in mid-February.

The objectives were clear: educate the next generation of environmental

stewards and empower citizens to control litter and stop dumping waste

in city waters.


Mayor Bill Campbell launched the Stream Cleanup Public Awareness and

Education Campaign on Feb. 15, 1999, proclaiming the program’s theme,

’When litter is dropped it doesn’t stop. It ends up in our streams.’ He

also introduced Captain Clean Stream, a six-foot, big-bellied, huggable

raccoon sporting a police captain hat on his head and an official badge

on his chest. To be sure children would like the captain, a panel of

5-to-10-year-olds provided input on his appearance.

Atlanta Environment produced 60- and 30-second television PSAs, which

included a commissioned jingle. It maintained aggressive media relations

while coordinating community education events and school presentations

that included an environmental activity book.


’We’ve provided spokespeople for every radio and television public

affairs show in the city,’ says Walker. Between February and May 1999,

publicity included 41 placements reaching 1,327,753 readers, 2,597,250

television viewers and 537,600 radio listeners.

Community events reached 248,635 people. Captain Clean Stream visited

1,470 students in 36 classes at seven schools. Cable giant Media One is

running PSAs on all cable programming in eight metro counties.


New corporate support will continue the campaign as it moves from city

jurisdiction to a non-profit umbrella organization with citizen advisory


Walker notes the next phase will continue public education and place

signs where people dump. ’We want to be in your face, telling them

’don’t litter, don’t dump,’ she says.

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