One Man’s Trash is a UN Intern’s Treasure

08 March 2013

Sigurd Tvete, UNRIC Intern in Brussels

Sigurd Tvete, Director’s Intern at the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC) in Brussels, explains how his novel communication idea has turned into a partnership reaching three million people in London.

At a lunch between UNRIC’s Deputy Director Caroline Petit and myself in early January, we discussed how UNRIC wanted to step up its outreach activities in the UK. As I have been living in London for the last three years, Caroline asked me if I had any good ideas on how to reach more people there. One day I read an article in The Guardian about London based recycling company Renew – a company which produces innovative recycling bins. At a cost of £25,000 per unit, the bins are bomb-blast proof and feature large digital information screens. As it happens I have a friend working for Renew as its Creative Director, and I proposed a partnership to Caroline. She loved the originality of this idea, and let me take it from there.

Renew was on board straight away, and it was decided to launch a campaign for International Women's Day. I engaged UNRIC's graphic designer to re-purpose posters from UNRIC's 2011 ad competition "Say No to Violence Against Women," as this fit perfectly with this year's Women's Day theme.

On March 8 the campaign rolled out on all of Renew's recycling bins around the City of London, with a likely reach of over three million views and a frequency of one ad per minute on all 200 screens throughout the day.

It was great to discover that UNRIC's Deputy Director Caroline Petit and Director Afsané Bassir-Pour are so open to innovative ideas, and that I can use my network of creative friends in my work at the United Nations. Caroline told me that she recognises the great impact that interns at the UN can have, and that she makes sure to mobilise them and to test ideas with them, as they are often the most relevant audience for new communications initiatives.

Renew was also very pleased about the partnership. Another campaign has already been executed, in order to mark the 1000 day countdown to the end of the Millennium Development Goals. The company is already present in Singapore and has its first bin in place on Manhattan, awaiting its full roll-out. With plans of worldwide expansion, I hope that the collaboration can evolve to become a global UN partnership. Nothing would make me happier than if this became yet another innovative and established way to tell the United Nations' stories to audiences worldwide.