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Education and Outreach

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Once most of the program design decisions have been made, communities must begin a public education and outreach effort. The goal of education and outreach is to provide residents and others with the information they need to understand and fully participate in the new program.

In addition to providing information, communities also usually attempt to solicit feedback from residents and others about the program as part of their outreach initiative. This input can then be used to adjust the program's design prior to implementation, making it more likely to be viewed by residents as well planned and suited to their needs.

Well before the education and outreach stage, solid waste planners usually attempt to build a consensus in the community for pay-as-you-throw (PAYT). The objective of consensus building is to increase public acceptance of PAYT and lay the foundation for the design work to follow. Once public support has been earned and program design has begun, planners can begin their public education and outreach efforts.

Communities with PAYT report that a strong public education and outreach program is critical. Residents must clearly understand the key elements of the new program. While educating the public is an additional task, a good public education program will simplify implementation and pay for itself in the long term.

Information to provide

Municipalities typically schedule their education and outreach work to begin approximately 3 to 6 months before program implementation (although larger communities sometimes begin their public outreach sooner). The first step in this process is to determine the content of the community relations effort. Residents need to be informed about the underlying rationale behind PAYT and the exact structure of the new system. Specific information provided by communities often includes:

Clear and simple instructions are often used when explaining the new program. Depending upon the makeup of their community, planners may need to translate this information into more than one language. If there is a large population of multilingual residents or other special populations, planners may need to further tailor their outreach.

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Outreach techniques

[Photo of Megaphone] By using different avenues to present information and solicit feedback, planners are able to increase the number of residents they reach. Some of the more common approaches include:

Communities also have employed newsletters, shopping mall and phone surveys, and videos about PAYT to spread the word. Some communities advocate establishing a telephone hotline to provide residents with immediate answers to their questions. If a community organized a task force during the consensus-building stage, this group could be reconvened to help get the word out about the new program. The task force can help planners develop effective messages and ensure that all segments of the community are reached.

In addition, other outreach techniques can be employed based on a community's particular conditions. If a community has a specific group of residents-senior citizens, for example-that planners suspect are not receiving enough information to participate effectively, additional outreach may be needed. Communities can provide information to the elderly through senior centers, local churches, and other institutions.

Staffing and administrative needs must be carefully reviewed prior to launching a comprehensive public outreach program. Some solid waste agencies decide to conduct public education campaigns using in-house staff. Others hire consultants or other temporary staff to help conduct the initial public outreach. This decision is typically based on the size of the community, the scope of the program, and the available resources.

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Ongoing education and outreach

Public outreach is an ongoing process. A consistent flow of information designed to answer frequently asked questions, direct citizen input, and communicate any program changes will help maintain public interest. Planners also often inform residents of reductions in waste, increases in recycling, or other tangible benefits that have resulted from implementation of PAYT. In addition, communities usually continue to offer citizens information on how to reduce waste and recycle. Tips on waste prevention options, such as reusing containers, renting seldom-used equipment, and donating unwanted items, can be useful reminders.

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Additional resources

The workbook in the Pay-As-You-Throw Tool Kit offers a variety of materials for creating public outreach materials, including clip art, product ideas, and a sample press release. The workbook also contains a sample agenda and script and overheads for a public meeting on PAYT. For advice on how consumers can alter their purchasing habits to generate less waste, see the Consumer's Handbook for Reducing Solid Waste and Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Practice the 3 Rs Inside and Out (PDF) (11 pp, 1.5MB, about PDF).

For additional help in developing a public education and outreach strategy, go to the worksheet on public outreach (Worksheet 3 in the set of seven worksheets (PDF) (21 pp, 331K, about PDF) in the Pay-As-You-Throw Tool Kit. It provides a framework for identifying specific public outreach goals for your program and ways to achieve them.

For answers to questions about public education and outreach for PAYT programs, visit education and outreach in the Frequent Questions section of this Web site.

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