Trash Spawns Super Ad Message

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Forty or so years ago, New Orleans’ Canal Street was spotted with cans intended to take in a sizable share of the throw-aways generated by citizens and visitors alike – in an area, just opposite the edge of the French Quarter, where drinking in public is not just legal, it’s virtually encouraged. (Where else could you ask for a take-out cup for a beer you didn’t finish in a restaurant, as I had occasion to do last week.)

To encourage the proper disposition of empties and similar detritus, the cans were labeled, “Hey, Mister, Toss Me Something!”

The idea was a clearer one. Whether it accomplished the intended goal or not is an open question. But those cans now are minus that slogan.

Meanwhile, in Texas, where self-pride in one’s heritage is an apparent birthright, a less and more subtle approach has been taken to reducing what had become, a few years ago, an intolerable trash burden. The Texas Department of Transportation took the proverbial bulls by the horns and advertised for ad agencies to come up with a way to address the issue. They did, in spades.

Smithsonianmag.com recently described how an exec at one agency noted, on walking somewhere one day, that all the trash was, as he put it, “a mess.” In a flash, he had the slogan: “Don’t Mess With Texas.”

The slogan was initially promoted during the 1986 Cotton Bowl, when an ad put out the “Don’t Mess WiTh Texas” message.

Within three years, trash volume on the streets dropped 72% from the 1986 level. And the ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ phrase took on a life of its own.

In time, the Texas Department of Transportation copyrighted the phrase in order to reap rewards from its use. As if it hadn’t already!

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Throw Something Away In Mumbai, Win Free WiFi Time

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A five-year-old startup in Mumbai, India is aiming to help keep discarded “stuff” off its home city’s street by rewarding users of its WiFi Trash Bins with free WiFi access. Called ThinkScream, the idea behind the company’s initial product was “to solve everyday problems in an innovative way, one solution as a time,” company co-founded Raj Desai told The Economic Times of India.

The company’s 4.5-foot (1.4 m) tall plastic bins are equipped with an LED screen that produces an access code when someone tosses something in the bin. Desai told The Times that the bins employ several technologies “to enable this seemingly simple function; The first is the WiFi technology, which is optimized to make sure that all codes work in sync; The second is the technology used for motion sensing totrace thee movement of the trash as it hits the bin; The last is to link the motion sensor with the WiFi network for a seamless operation,” he explains.

The company premiered the bins at a music festival in 2014 to provide attendees easy access to WiFi. Since then, ThinkScream has hooked up to similar networks in retail stores and at trade shows. They’ve also received queries from companies seeing the bins as offering a great branding opportunity, but that was never the premise behind the product’s creation, Desai says. “It was always to trigger positive changes in deepp-seated behavior around public cleanliness in India,” he declares.

Though no timetable has been announced, the company’s aim is to eventually see their bins set up alongside streets.

Home Products Recycling Becoming a BIG Business

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Nick Swaggert, of Better Futures, said the work he and his company do has “saved 700 tons of building materials from going into the landfill.” (Photo: Elizabeth Flores, StarTribune)

The old ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ line is increasingly being recycled in the building materials field. The Minneapolis StarTribune reported earlier this week how an assortment of non- and for-profit companies are taking in and reselling kitchen parts (including cabinets, fridges, stoves and more), other types of cabinetry, bathroom fixtures, and even hardwood flooring that, for whatever reason, someone ones to replace.

Habitat for Humanity, which has 875 Habitat ReStore locations across the U.S., is able to build six homes with the income each store earns from goods either donated at the store or picked up, free of charge, from donors’ homes. One of their stores in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota is doing more than $1 million per year in sales, and a nearby store is targeted to do about as well in two or three years, the company’s senior manager of operations for the area told the paper.

Another company, Better Futures Minnesota, which opened a building materials warehouse a block away from the new ReStore, uses demolition crews to remove reusable building materials in homes throughout the Twin Cities. Revenue from the sale of deconstruction materials has nearly doubled since the move to the new location nine months ago. The company provides housing and employment to men recently incarcerated. “We’ve saved 700 tons of building materials from going into the landfill,” said Nick Swaggert, vice president of business development and operations for Better Futures.

Two trends are aiding growth in this segment of the recycling field: The age of many homes – in the neighborhood of 40 years in the Twin Cities (and 30+ years, nationally)– and the inability of many Millennials to buy new many of the items they want to put into their homes. And with pricing in the home materials recycling stores being generally 50-90% less than such large new products outlets as Home Depot and Loews, the business of putting old things back into circulation, and use, is proving to be a serious winner!