Can Santa Monica's Mobile-Coded Garbage Cans 'Heal the Bay'?

At the very least, it will make beachgoers think twice about leaving the beach before discarding their trash. The City of Santa Monica teamed up with Heal the Bay, a nonprofit that works to keep Southern California coastal waters clean and safe, to outfit 500 trashcans with QR (quick response) codes to encourage beachgoers to clean up after themselves. It seems like a no-brainer, yet the less-than-pristine state of the average beach tells a different story.

The "smart" trashcans were created by DDB Los Angeles, launched Memorial Day weekend, and feature step-by-step instructions urging beachgoers to trash their trash. "Toes in the sand, trash in the can," read the wraps, with pictures of a surfer, and a series of arrows guiding garbage into a trash can. 

The QR codes drive beachgoers to the Santa Monica Beachcast, a mobile Web site that offers tips on keeping beaches clean, volunteer opportunities at upcoming beach cleanups, beach and water quality conditions, and emergency contact information. 

"We took a simple and rather static design assignment and turned it into a living, breathing mobile execution," said Matt Reinhard, Executive Creative Director for DDB LA. "We knew we had approximately 500 trashcans that could act as communication points so we based our application on the theory that people are, in fact, inclined to have their mobile devices on the beach -- and for us to tap into that fact was critical."

The Santa Monica Beachcast also encourages users to upload and share their favorite beach pictures through the Instagram app. Once users upload and tag their photos with the #SMBC hashtag, the pictures will appear in the Santa Monica Beachcast's photo gallery.  

"Our biggest challenge was deciding whether or not to create an app versus a mobile site and what was the right amount of content to serve up," said Kevin McCarthy, Group Creative Director for DDB LA. "Using existing content platforms, namely Instagram, Twitter, and RSS feeds, we were able to aggregate content in a simple site that can continue to self generate new content."

3 comments about "Can Santa Monica's Mobile-Coded Garbage Cans 'Heal the Bay'?".
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  1. Shelly Kramer from V3 Integrated Marketing, June 13, 2011 at 6:28 p.m.

    Hi Amy,

    I love QR codes (done well) and was intrigued by this article. So much so that I went to Santa Monica Beachcast's site as linked here, only to not find what I was looking for. Sigh.

    Here's my take. QR codes here are a good idea. Not using them to serve up things that consumers might be excited by (like deals at local businesses, coupons or something else as a "reward" for taking the time to scan the code) seems to me to be a potential waste of time.

    People like to scan things that give them information, sure, but the information that you mentioned here all seems a bit boring. And really only targeted to the people who might already be throwing their garbage in the trash - not the people who can't be bothered.

    Is it just me, or does this seem like almost there but not quite?


  2. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, June 13, 2011 at 6:35 p.m.

    I agree with Shelly Kramer.

  3. Shelly Kramer from V3 Integrated Marketing, June 13, 2011 at 8:28 p.m.

    Funny Howie. We rarely agree. Bahahahaha.

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