Garbage trucks are outfitted with what look like windows

By Diego Vasquez
February 17, 2009

To say the least, it would appear a creative challenge: promoting recycling to consumers using garbage trucks as the ad vehicle.
But then again it makes a lot of sense. It’s those very trucks that haul off to the dump so much of the stuff that people could recycle but don’t.

The challenge was just how to deliver the message. The client, Norcal Waste Systems, a garbage collection outfit in the San Francisco area, turned to Singer Associates, which brought in Brainchild Creative.

The answer came as the creative team was out touring Norcal’s centralized waste collection facility. Looking into the centralized pit where collection trucks bring materials for distribution, we pretty much all concluded, oh no, look how much more stuff could be recycled instead of thrown away, recalls Jessica Shelton, account executive at Singer Associates. 

That led us to conclude that our main challenge was to get people to take that always-difficult step of rethinking the familiar. We needed people to see garbage differently.

What they came up with was 3D-like images on the sides of the trucks that look like windows that appear to reveal the trash and junk thats inside. Peering into the faux window, one sees all sorts of things that could have been recycled: paper, metal, glass and food scraps. 

Beneath the window are these words: Recycling changes everything. One section of the graphic, in the shape of a recycling bin one sees on the street, is an image showing the benefits of recycling. One is of flourishing redwoods, another of fertile farmland.

The ads are printed on 3M Controltac, an adhesive vinyl material.

 In recycling, the moment of truth is when you toss individual items in a container,says Shelton. A chicken bone tossed in a garbage can goes to a landfill, decomposes and produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. But that same bone tossed in a green cart goes to a modern compost facility, where most of the carbon in the bone is preserved in the finished compost and returnedto the land when the soil amendment is applied to local farms.

The campaign, which launched in December and will run for at least a year, got picked up by two waste management trade publications and was also featured on San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX-5.

That’s in addition to clicking with the client. Says Shelton: When we showed it to the client, they said we knew were looking for something like this. We just didn’t know what it was.”