Engagement high for TerraCycle's cigarette butt recycling program

TerraCycle creates recycling programs called "Brigades" for previously non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle waste.

Companies: TerraCycle (Trenton, NJ) and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, a subsidiary of Reynolds American, (Santa Fe, NM)
  Cigarette Waste Recycling Program launch
November 14 - ongoing
$11,595 (through January 2013)

TerraCycle creates recycling programs called “Brigades” for previously non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle waste. It began a partnership with Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company (SFNTC) last November to launch the first US cigarette-waste recycling program.

“SFNTC has a long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability, and we were looking for a way to further bring that to life when we learned about TerraCycle's method to recycle certain types of cigarette waste,” says director of communications Seth Moskowitz.

Organizations or individuals can sign-up for free on TerraCycle's website to become members of the “Cigarette Waste Brigade” to collect and ship the waste to TerraCycle. TerraCycle pays for shipping and donates $1 for every pound collected to Keep America Beautiful's anti-cigarette litter program.

“We run the recycling program, host the website, and promote the program,” explains Albe Zakes, TerraCycle's global VP of media relations. “Our goals include driving sign-ups and participation and informing the industry of the advancement in cigarette waste recycling.”

Broad media and blogger outreach and social media engagement drives awareness and sign-ups.

“We position the program in as many ways as are appropriate to reach a wide variety of consumer and trade audiences,” Zakes notes.

An AP exclusive ran November 14. Zakes' team then targeted regional publications in New Mexico and New Jersey and outlets in tobacco-centric media markets, such as the Carolinas and Virginia.

Environmental, facilities management, recycling/waste management, hospitality, and tobacco trades and industry outlets were pitched next, followed by consumer media. Environmental blogs were also targeted.  

Weekly posts on TerraCycle's Facebook and Twitter pages highlight the program and earned coverage. In addition, Keep America Beautiful promotes the program on its social media properties.

SFNTC's website (sfntc.com) provides program information. The company also informed customers of the effort via direct mail.

More than 2,123 organizations have signed up, and more than 800,000 butts have been collected.

“It's hard to directly compare recycling program campaigns, but sign-ups for this campaign during this time period were at least twice what we expected, and the collection rate is higher than twice our expectation,” Zakes says. “We've run other campaigns and not collected 800,000 items to recycle in the first year.” 

About $800 has been raised to date for Keep America Beautiful.

The campaign garnered 298 placements (nearly 300 million impressions) as of January 17. Outlets covering the story include The Washington Post, Agency France Presse, Tobacco China, Grist.com, and Treehugger.com.

Zakes says coverage prompted requests for similar programs from cigarette manufacturers worldwide. Programs are slated to launch in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in April, and in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark in May.

Plans for SFNTC's program include ongoing trade outreach, helping Brigade participants promote local community efforts, and milestone cigarette butt-collection announcements. 

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