Recycling Partnership’s New CMO Sees Power in a Good Story

Dune Ives knows a great recycling story when she sees one—and she sees it everywhere, from a woman’s garage filled with polypropylene to a recycling truck sending out postcards.

Part of her new job as Marketing Director at The Recycling Partnership will be to bring engaging, extraordinary stories to a wider audience.

Ives has worked in the field of environmental and climate change for more than 25 years, most recently as executive director of the environmental group Lonely Whale. The organization has become known for its multimedia campaigns addressing issues such as ocean plastic pollution and reducing single-use plastics.

Ives brings her expertise to TRP, where she now leads a team that will work on campaigns and communications aimed at making recycling more personal and meaningful to the general public. “It could be a mascot. It could be in production. It could be green,” she said with a laugh.

A big part of her job will be to combat the idea that recycling doesn’t work. It’s something she plans to combat in her new role at TRP, by drawing attention to recyclers, municipalities and others who are using community programs and new technologies to improve collection. TRP is also working on campaigns to highlight efforts to make recycling more accessible.

“The truth is we have these recycling plants across the country, over 9,000 recycling programs and hundreds of thousands of people who work in recycling every day,” she said. “We have people who want to recycle, who want to see it work and know it works. We just need to tell that story more often.”

Ives spoke with Waste Dive about her new role and how The Recycling Partnership plans to continue working with municipalities and recyclers while also spreading its message to a wider audience.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

WASTE DIVE: How is The Recycling Partnership approaching recycling campaigns aimed at the public in the near future and what have you learned from your previous roles that you will take with you into this job?

Dune Ives, Marketing Director at The Recycling Partnership

Courtesy of The Recycling Partnership

IVES DUNES: It’s the 10th anniversary (of The Recycling Partnership) and a major turning point. Where do we go next? My team tells the story of where we’ve been and the impact that the grantmaking we’ve done has had on the communities that receive those grants. My team is also responsible for helping shape the narrative of where we’re going next in the next 10 years.

At Lonely Whale we had really valuable content production, storytelling and campaigns that captured the imagination and allowed people to see themselves in the story and start to change social norms. It was focused on the issue of plastic waste. But what I love about coming to The Recycling Partnership is that it’s not just about plastic, it’s about all the substrates and making sure we have the most effective recycling system in the country that we can have.

We put a lot of thought into figuring out what makes people pay attention to something in their daily lives that has just become normal. There is trash on the ground, and in our daily lives there are unnecessary, disposable items that we have simply accepted as normal.

One of the most important things to understand in behavior change communication is that no one likes being told what to do. It’s also hard to get someone to commit to something when all we’re saying is how bad it is. “Recycling is too hard. Recycling is so expensive. Recycling doesn’t do anything to reduce the production of plastic or glass.”

I can’t wait to take the lessons learned from Lonely Whale and apply them to the recycling industry, to say, “Recycling actually works.” It works in Elgin, Illinois. It works in Kansas City, Missouri. It works in Baltimore. It works all over the country. It’s about showing the success stories so people are really excited to participate.

There are many recycling campaigns that focus on individual actions. How do you design these messages in a way that balances the broader political initiatives that TRP supports?

If we want someone to do something, there has to be an easily accessible solution. In some cases, there is no easy way for people to participate in recycling, and this is where policy change becomes so important.