Pink-Trash: Raising Awareness From The Ground Up


It’s an effective  grassroots campaign with a unique selling proposition…but it really starts in your garage. Pink-Trash is a locally owned recycling and trash collection service with a philanthropic edge to it. Founder and president of Pink-Trash Kelly Buffalino got the initiative to start up the company after noticing the unpredictable and varying monthly trash collection rates her husband paid to a national provider for his local business.  Taking things local Pink-Trash established itself in a partnership with Inman Septic in late 2011 and began servicing the Wilmington community’s residents, contractors and commercial businesses with a cost effective, flat rate and no fee trash and recycling service. But Pink-Trash is more than just an innovative color to line the streets on trash day. Through non-traditional marketing strategies the company’s pink trash can and ribbon brand image serve to represent and promote Breast Cancer Awareness and specifically North Carolina’s Pretty in Pink Foundation (PIPF).

The Pretty in Pink Foundation was founded in May of 2004 by Dr. Lisa Tolnitch, a breast cancer surgeon, with the purpose to serve women in North Carolina. They aim to help those who do not have the funds to pay for their breast cancer treatment, often women without medical insurance.  Almost 20% of women living in North Carolina do not have any health insurance, and around 14% of those women are also living below the poverty line.  Through fundraising and sponsors, the goal of the Pretty in Pink Foundation is to ensure that North Carolina women have the treatment they need for their breast cancer, regardless of their funds.  Aside from donations, Pretty in Pink Foundation has a variety of fundraisers to invite the community to get involved.  Some of these include free exercise classes for women going through chemotherapy, fashion shows, 5k races, and a golf tournament, and of course their unique partnership with a local trash company.

People may not intentionally go searching to get involved in the PIPF’s movement to support cancer survivors and patients, but the trash cans function as an undeniable reminder that the non-profit and its cause are a relevant presence in the community. The trashcans represent a source for the Pretty in Pink Foundation to be recalled as the dominant local breast cancer  awareness support system and at the very least to gain recognition in association to breast cancer awareness.  Beyond just promoting the PIPF through aesthetic recall and recognition methods, Pink-Trash also donates 1 percent of all its proceeds to the Pretty in Pink Foundation’s cause raising a whopping $502,000 in contributions for the PIPF in the year 2014.

pink dumpster

Pink-Trash’s commitment to breast cancer awareness and the PIPF harnesses a grassroots business approach. As the name implies, a grassroots marketing campaign starts at the bottom and works its way up. Starting on a local level with a small dedicated group, a grassroots movement appears to spontaneously spring into action. Involving the community in raising awareness and funds also makes an organization and its initiative more accessible, and what is more accessible than a trash service. Having a pink trashcan isn’t a symbol of status rather a quiet call to action. While Pink-Trash’s grassroots campaign is increasing in size and support, they are also strengthening the communities they reach. Friends and neighbors can feel they are part of something bigger than themselves by simply taking out the trash. Although there are many recycling options Wilmington locals can choose from, Pink-Trash set itself apart from their competition with their unique selling proposition. They convey to consumers that recycling with Pink-Trash will help benefit Pretty In Pink Foundation’s vision is to eliminate financial barriers and to provide assistance/ resources to any breast cancer patient with financial needs for both treatment and surgery.

The Pretty in Pink Foundation and Pink-Trash have created a mutually beneficial partnership knowing one organization will lead to awareness of the other. These local takes on waste and philanthropy combine to give back and service New Hanover County and surrounding areas proving that collaboration is at the core of any strong marketing plan. Who would have thought a trash company could do so much for a cancer foundation? Imagine the possibilities of unusual partnerships, and the effect it would have on marketing!

What unusual marketing strategies are your favorite?  How effective do you think trashcans are as a promotion method for the Pretty in Pink Foundation?

  • Aki Suzuki, Alexis Trimnal, Carey Poniewaz, Carey Shetterley, and June Wilkinson