Denton’s Solid Waste Department recently proved that a good idea never really goes out of style. The department’s idea to rework a classic communication tool — the calendar — was so successful that department employees submitted the project to a national association and won an award.
The department’s 2012 residential services calendar received the Best Education/Public Outreach Award 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.
Chas Foreman, the department’s marketing and outreach coordinator, told us that the calendar allows the city to offer more information about solid waste programs than the refrigerator magnets that were formerly mailed out, and provides the information when it’s pertinent.
The January calendar, for instance, includes a holiday collection schedule and information about disposing of Christmas trees.
The calendar also reminds residents to think about what they throw in the trash, helping the department improve its services, Foreman said.
For example, when the department’s Home Chemical Collection ReUse Store was featured on the calendar in July, the store had more visitors than during any other month. 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.
The city has had four prescription drives — which are expensive because the department has to pay for police officers and medical personnel to be on site — and the kiosk has collected more than any single drive, Foreman said. The kiosk will be featured again in the 2013 calendar in September.
The calendars cost about the same as the old refrigerator magnets, city spokeswoman Kara Roberson said. The city sent the calendars to about 28,000 single-family homes, and printing and mailing the calendars cost approximately 58 cents per household. The magnets, she said, cost 55 cents per household to produce and mail.
But the calendars may prove to be more cost-effective in the long run by helping to make a change in the culture, Roberson said.
It’s great that Denton’s Solid Waste Department received an award for its calendar program, but we think this idea is a winner in more ways than one.
Finding an economical way to provide residents with information about solid waste programs when they need it most and encouraging people to think before they toss items into the trash should continue to pay the city dividends far into the future.