CBSM Increases Used Oil Recycling

California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) grantees spend a significant percentage of their Used Oil grant funds each year on mass media advertising to promote used oil recycling to the public. However, research has shown that while mass media advertising raises public awareness of environmentally beneficial behaviors, it generally does not increase public adoption of those behaviors. Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM), on the other hand, has successfully increased public participation in a number of environmentally beneficial behaviors.

To determine if CBSM could increase used oil and filter recycling by Do-It-Yourself (DIY) oil change mechanics, in 2003 the CIWMB contracted with the California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM) to conduct CBSM test pilots in Los Angeles and Napa Counties. In two different pilots, CBSM produced significant, measurable increases in the volume of used oil recycled and number of participants recycling.

Wesley Schultz, a CSUSM Professor of Psychology, worked in conjunction with the Los Angeles and Napa County used oil recycling coordinators to develop two very different CBSM pilots. Both pilots followed the four basic steps of CBSM:

  1. Identify barriers to used oil recycling.
  2. Develop an intervention strategy specifically designed to overcome identified barriers.
  3. Pilot test the intervention strategy on a small scale.
  4. Evaluate the impact of the intervention strategy on used oil recycling.

Each jurisdiction identified and overcame barriers unique to its region. Following is a summary of each pilot:

Los Angeles County

Identified Barrier: DIYs reported being turned away from Certified Collection Centers because they lacked proper collection containers.

CBSM Intervention Strategy: Distribute free oil collection containers affixed with motivational prompts to DIYs at auto parts stores.

1,468 customers received free oil collection containers containing the standard CIWMB “Recycle Used Oil and Filters” sticker at four Kragen Auto Parts stores. Another 1,476 customers received free oil collection containers affixed with a motivational “Take the Last Step” sticker at an additional four Kragen stores. A control group of customers at another eight Kragen stores did not receive any collection containers. During the quarter following the intervention, the Kragen stores that had distributed containers with the motivational “Last Step” sticker experienced a 22 percent increase in the volume of oil collected as compared to the control group. Stores that had distributed containers with the standard CIWMB sticker experienced a 6 percent increase in the volume of oil collected as compared to the control group.

Napa County

Identified Barriers: Napa County’s curbside used oil collection program was undersubscribed. The majority of surveyed DIY residents did not know about the curbside program or were not motivated enough to use it. Many also believed that their fellow DIY residents infrequently recycled their used oil.

CBSM Intervention Strategy: Send residents informational curbside program enrollment mailers containing testimonials from community role models about the value of the program.

Napa County contained 1,026 DIY households that could potentially utilize the curbside oil program but only 339 of these were enrolled in the program. The contractor and used oil coordinator re-designed direct mail brochures to better inform and motivate DIY residents to participate in Napa County’s curbside oil collection program. The brochures contained program enrollment procedures and testimonials from several respected and well known Napa residents, accompanied by their photographs, proclaiming their valued use of the county’s curbside oil collection service.

In Area A, brochures sent to residents included a call-in curbside oil enrollment number and in Area B they contained a mail-in curbside oil enrollment card. Residents in both areas received a follow-up postcard reminding them of Napa’s curbside oil collection service. The mailers resulted in a 22 percent increase in curbside oil enrollment in Area A (15 new program participants) and a 45 percent increase in Area B (25 new participants). Enrollment remained the same in control areas where no mailers were sent.  Even more impressive was a 248 percent increase in the number of curbside oil pick-ups in the month immediately following the intervention.

To obtain more information about the pilot projects described above, go to the CIWMB Publication. Grantees will be able to download and customize camera-ready copies of the “Take the Last Step” collection container sticker and Napa County’s curbside oil program enrollment brochures at the Used Oil Program website in the June of 2006.

For more information contact: Used Oil & Household Hazardous Waste,