Denton’s Solid Waste Department reworked a classic communication tool this year — the calendar — and saw enough change that department employees submitted the project to a national association and won an award.
The department received the Best Education/Public Outreach Award for its 2012 residential services calendar from the North American Hazardous Materials Management Association.
Based in Colorado, the association is a 20-year-old professional organization dedicated to preventing pollution and reducing hazardous waste from entities that may be exempt from regulations, such as households and small businesses.
Denton used to mail out refrigerator magnets with basic reminders of collection days. The new monthly calendar not only offers more information about the city’s solid waste programs but provides the information when it’s pertinent, according to Chas Foreman, the department’s marketing and outreach coordinator.
For example, the January calendar includes the holiday collection schedule and information on how to dispose of Christmas trees.
Because the calendar reminds residents to think about what they throw in the trash, the department has improved its services, Foreman said.
For example, the Solid Waste Department saw more visitors to its Home Chemical Collection ReUse Store in July than in any other month. July happened to be the month the store was featured on the calendar, Foreman said.
The ReUse Store allows residents to pick up many items for free, such as automotive fluids and pool chemicals, which the city recycles from its home chemical collections.
The department also promotes the drug kiosk installed in the lobby at the Denton Police Department, where residents can deposit unused prescription drugs in a secure location.
Recent studies show that drugs in the wastewater stream not only affect wildlife downstream but often resurface in public drinking water.
However, prescription collection drives are expensive, Foreman said. Unlike other waste collection drives, the department has to pay for police officers and medical personnel to be onsite for prescription drives.
The department has had four prescription drives and collected, on average, more than 625 pounds of unused drugs at each. However, the kiosk has collected more than any single drive, Foreman said.
The kiosk will be featured again in the 2013 calendar in September.
The new calendars cost about the same as the old refrigerator magnets, according to city spokeswoman Kara Roberson. Printing and mailing the calendars cost about 58 cents per household, as compared to 55 cents per household for production and mailing of the magnets.
The city sent the calendars to about 28,000 single-family homes.
The calendar is printed by a company that specializes in such products for cities, Roberson said. The division worked with the same company for its smartphone app, My-Waste, which lets users create a customized collection schedule.
Compared to the basic reminders of the magnet, the new communication tools may also prove cost effective because they can help make a change in the culture, Roberson said.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org .