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Outagamie County Recycling and Solid Waste sees success on TikTok

Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 4:45 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 18, 2020 at 6:00 PM CST
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OUTAGAMIE COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - We first reported on an Outagamie County agency’s TikTok going viral earlier this week.

The video demonstrates, in a humorous way, that people shouldn’t recycle Christmas lights because it tangles recycling machines. It shows an employee, “Philthy Philm,” angrily untangling the lights from a machine and putting them into a proper drop-off bin.

In two days the video has more than a million views, giving a big boost to Outagamie County Recycling and Solid Waste’s popularity.

“I don’t think we knew it was going to go viral. We always joke like ‘Ah, we’re going viral, we’re going viral’ and then it happened I’m like ‘Oh my goodness guys we went viral,’” said Marissa Michalkiewicz, Recycling and Solid Waste Program Coordinator.

Marissa Michalkiewicz says Recycling and Resource Recovery Administrator Alex Nett approached her about starting a TikTok account a few weeks ago, aiming to use it as an educational tool.

Employees play characters in the videos, like “Philthy Philm,” putting a persona on the industry.

“His real name is Phil, so it’s a play on words ‘Philthy Philm,’” said Nett. “A lot of people referred to Phil as the ‘angry recycle man’ so making that connection that it’s more than just, you put it at the end of your curb and it disappears, that there’s people who actually involved in that and who have to handle it and see it.”

Other characters include “Dirty Dan the Loader Man” and “Leadpoint Luke.” Michalkiewicz says they often refer to each other by their new nicknames now.

“We just work with an incredible group of people,” said Michalkiewicz. “I don’t know why they agreed to do these videos with me but I’m very thankful, otherwise this would’ve went absolutely nowhere.”

The popularity of the Christmas lights video prompted a slew of comments praising the creativity.

“It’s really great to see everyone connecting with the people that are here doing the work,” said Michalkiewicz.

It also drew the attention of some big names.

“I texted everyone and I’m like ‘You guys, Netflix just commented,’” said Michalkiewicz. “And Phil, so innocent to social media, he’s like ‘Wait, like the Netflix? Like the official one?’”

Nett and Michalkiewicz are excited by the attention the Christmas lights video has gotten.

“A lot of people who just weren’t aware and learned it now and they’re excited to learn more,” said Nett. “That’s the big thing is everybody’s like ‘Oh, keep going, we want to learn more.’”

“Yeah it’s been super awesome to see because, again, at the end of the day we just want people to recycle right and learned these lessons that aren’t conveyed in this fashion,” said Michalkiewicz. “So the fact this video took off the way it did allows them to see our other content and now they’re learning about plastic film, they’re learning about plastic water bottles, I mean they’re learning about this content we already had on there now because of the holiday light message.”

Now the account has almost 30,000 followers, and they hope to keep the momentum going.

“I think it’s just a mixture of fun and luck, but we are thoroughly enjoying the feedback we’re receiving and happy that people want more,” said Michalkiewicz.

To see all of the topics covered through the TikTok account, you can find it HERE.

Besides Christmas lights, other holiday items that can’t be recycled include gift bags, ribbons or bows, and wrapping paper that’s foil-like or has a lot of glitter.

Fake trees are also not recyclable, so the agency recommends donating those if possible.

Real trees can be brought to a yard waste site.

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