Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board

Grants Program


Final Report


Grantee: Community Conservation Centers (CCC)

Project Title: Jump Start Mixed Paper Recycling Project

Contact person: Tom Lent

Phone: 845-5600

Date: May 14, 1999


This report covers from project inception in March 1998 to completion in May 1999.


Summary of the Program

The Jump Start project was planned to substantially increase the quantity of mixed paper recycled in the City of Berkeley, specifically targeting residential households. The project consisted of the design and distribution of outreach materials to educate residents of Berkeley on the broad range of materials that can be recycled as mixed paper and how easy it is to do.  Outreach materials consisted of refrigerator magnets and grocery bag imprints with the mixed paper recycling message. These materials were distributed door-to-door and through grocery stores.


The project goal was to increase the monthly tonnage of mixed paper recycled by Berkeley residents by a minimum of 35 tons. Results far exceeded the goal. Mixed paper tonnage collected citywide jumped over 100 tons in the first month of the outreach program. Tonnages collected have generally stayed at levels between 80 to 100 tons above the previous year’s monthly levels during the ten months since the educational material distribution began. The average increase is 96 tons per month, representing a 32% increase in collections.

Message Design Developed by Cooperative Process

Recent developments in recycling technology have made it possible to recycle a much wider range of mixed paper materials and allowed greater commingling of fibers than in previous years. Informal surveys by project staff indicated that many residents of Berkeley had become discouraged from recycling mixed paper due to the previous complicated material restrictions and sorting requirements. The project was predicated on the theory that Berkeley residents would recycle substantially more mixed paper if they understood how many materials are recyclable and realized that tedious sorting is no longer necessary.

A committee of staff and board members from the Community Conservation Centers (CCC) and the Ecology Center worked together with JPD Design of Berkeley to develop eye catching designs to communicate the mixed paper recycling message. The committee also received valuable input from the City of Berkeley recycling staff and the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board. JPD produced designs for a two sided refrigerator magnet and a grocery bag using all four sides (the front, back, and both side gussets) for our own production. The bag design was then modified to provide a one sided version for major groceries to use in conjunction with their own logos.

Message Bags Produced on Recycled Stock

We undertook an industry wide search to find a bag producer who would print our message on a bag with a high percentage of post consumer recycled fiber. Willamette Industries provided the best option, guaranteeing a minimum 50% post consumer content with the remainder of the content from wood industry waste. Willamette was contracted to produce 122,000 of the bags. Due to a misprint, they ended up producing twice that number (see below under section entitled Bag Misprint). John Carter in the Oakland office of Willamette was extremely supportive of the project and very helpful in facilitating it, including accomplishing a quick rescue to help us turn the misprint disaster to our advantage.

Crane Productions of Louisville, KY was contracted to produce 40,000 of their Monster Magnets with our design.

Bags & Magnets Distributed Door-to-Door in Multiple Phases

From late May through the end of June of 1998, a five person crew from the Berkeley Worksource BOSS (Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency) program coordinated by Adrian Harper distributed one four sided bag and one refrigerator magnet to the doors of 1-9 unit residential buildings throughout Berkeley. In total, they delivered the bags and magnets to over 30,000 doors. BOSS is a program that supports CALWORKS participants and homeless people in job training and referral.

Two additional reminder distributions were made directly to households. Ecology Center staff dropped a 4-sided bag in each bin at curbside after pick up of the recyclables over two weeks in October 1998. About 20,000 bags were distributed in this manner. Another 15,000 bags and magnets were distributed in March and April of 1999 door to door in targeted neighborhoods on eight curbside routes (of a total of 30 routes) where participation has been particularly low. Dave Williamson of the Ecology Center coordinated these additional distributions.

Small Groceries Distributed Program Message Bags

At the end of May 1998, CCC and Ecology Center staff distributed over 60,000 of the four-sided bags to small and medium sized grocery stores in Berkeley that do not print their own bags. Each store received enough bags to last approximately two weeks - ranging from one bale (300 bags) to two pallets (14,400 bags). The stores were not charged anything for the bags. Not surprisingly, participation was almost 100% with a total of 40 stores participating, including many that normally only provide plastic bags.

Major Groceries Printed Program Message on Their Bags

Three stores in Berkeley agreed to print the one sided version of our graphic on their bag: Andronico’s, Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market. This more than doubled the number of bags with our message that were distributed during the program and will continue dissemination of the message beyond the formal close of the project.

Andronico’s ran the one sided version of our graphic on the front side of their bag above their store logo for two weeks from the 22nd of June through the 6th of July in 1998 in their three Berkeley stores. The graphic went out on over 75,000 bags at no cost to the project beyond our graphic design and coordination costs. Gina Adame in the marketing department at Andronico’s was very helpful in facilitating this project.

Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market both added the one sided version of our graphic to the back side of their bags (the front side is entirely taken with their store logos). Monterey Market also added "Use This Bag for Recycling" prominently on their store logo side. The initial run was 96,000 bags. Both stores are continuing to use this graphic on future runs. Kelly Ryan of Area Distributing in San Jose supplies the bags for both stores and was very helpful in facilitating this with the bag producer (Port Townsend). The printer and distributor charged nominal plate change costs to our program and is absorbing all other setup, ink and handling costs.

We approached Safeway, Whole Foods and Wild Oats but, being regional stores instead of local, they were not interested in carrying a local message on their bags.

Racks Were Used to Distribute Bags at UC Berkeley and Farmers Markets

The project designed a distribution rack for handling the bags. Starting in June 1998, Ecology Center distributed the bags through racks at their Farmer’s Markets and selected other events. The University of California recycling program is also using the racks to distribute bag in student dorms (see next section entitled Bag Misprint

Bag Misprint Became Opportunity for Further Distribution

Unfortunately, Willamette provided JPD with the erroneous specifications for bag design and as a result the original print run was wrong. All of the information was on the bag, but the alignment was so far off that words wrapped around the fold making for a very odd, difficult to read bag. Acknowledging the error, Willamette reprinted the entire run of bags properly and allowed us to keep the original run to use as we saw fit.

Seeking creative uses for the misprinted bags instead of sending them to be recycled, the CCC and Ecology Center found homes for all of the bags. Some went to the University of California at Berkeley Recycling office for use to encourage students to recycle at the end of the semester clean out. The UCB Recycling Office organized a distribution of approximately 4,000 bags to students in dorms and through tabling in August and continues to distribute the bags through display racks provided by the CCC Project in dormitories and other prominent campus locations.

The largest number of bags went to the Berkeley Food Pantry and the Alameda County Food Bank to use in distribution of donated food to needy people. The CCC is storing a quantity of the bags for UCB and the Food Pantry for them to use over the next two years. A small quantity of the bags also went to the East Bay Center for Creative Reuse.

Program was Covered by Local Columnist

The Berkeley Voice had complementary coverage of the program in a column by Martin Snapp in July 1998, which helped raise awareness in the community of the program goals.

Original Program Plan was Modified to Optimize Distribution

Several changes were made from the original program plan in the anticipated materials and distribution methods. The original plan anticipated four citywide door-to-door distributions of the grocery bag. This was scaled back to one citywide and two targeted distributions in order to re-channel budget funds to use a wider range of materials and multiple pathways to reach residents with the message. A refrigerator magnet was developed to complement the bag and be a more permanent reference for the households. Grocery stores were targeted to play a more significant role in getting the bag message out in multiple waves.

The original plan also called for more extensive use of racks to distribute bags through the public libraries and other public places. We decided against this activity for several reasons. With the temporary close of the Central Library for earthquake renovation, the branch libraries in Berkeley are hurting for space and found it not to be good time to take on other space needs. We also desired to allocate more bags than originally planned to the small grocery stores and to targeted curbside distributions and we felt these to be more cost-effective uses for the bag. The racks were put to good use by the UC Berkeley recycling staff as described above.

EVALUATION: Project Goals Were Exceeded B Almost 100 Tons Diverted

The project goal was to increase the monthly tonnage of mixed paper recycled by Berkeley residents by 76 tons with success defined as an increase of at least 35 tons. Immediate results far exceeded this goal. Mixed paper tonnage collected city wide jumped over 100 tons in June 1998, the first month when outreach materials were distributed throughout the city.

As the line chart that follows shows, the increase has been sustained through the ten months since the program began. In most of the preceding months, collections have fluctuated at levels between 80 to 100 tons above monthly levels from the previous year.

The table below shows that the CCC collected an average of 392 tons per month of mixed paper in Berkeley during the ten months after the educational materials distribution began. During the same period in the previous year, collections were 296 tons per month. Therefore the average monthly collection for this period has increased by 96 tons. This is a 32% increase.  












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