26 September 2019 by Lucy Pegg

Comms focus needed to improve recycling habits

Councils need to transform their communications to encourage residents to see their waste as a resource, according to speakers at the Kent Resource Partnership conference last week (19 September).

The annual event saw speakers from across the industry address the question of how to “nudge” residents into better recycling habits.

Effective communications is key to improving recycling rates. Image: East Riding of Yorkshire’s Metal Matters campaign

Sam Reeve of consultancy firm Resource Futures addressed the importance of consistency – whether in container colours, sorting systems or communications language – in encouraging this shift to take place.

He characterised changes suggested by the Resources and Waste Strategy as “testing the social contract” by shifting onus onto producers with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and using money as a recycling incentive with Deposit Return Schemes (DRS).

Victoria Hutchin from the WYG consultancy also said that the waste industry would need to “change the social norms” if it was to make citizens see waste as a valuable resource, not waste.

Comparing the success of small charges for single use items with discounts for bringing reusable products, she said: “The power of conforming to what is socially acceptable has had a far greater impact than penalties.”

Envirocomm’s Stephen Bates gave the conference a provocative presentation which called on councils to “rebrand recycling” through their communications. He encouraged local authorities to never mention waste and recycling in the same context, in order to move public attitudes towards viewing recyclate as a resource.

James Skidmore, Sainsbury’s environmental resource manager, ended the conference by telling the audience about the supermarket’s work finding sustainable solutions to waste.

He said: “We need structure and strategy to move on overtime, we need the public debate to be less reactionary.”

OPRL app

As well as communications strategies, the KRP partnership also heard about hands-on approaches to shifting recycling attitudes.

James Skidmore of Sainsbury’s discusses the supermarket’s environmental policies

Recycling information for packaging will soon be available simply by scanning a product with an app.

Jane Bevis – chair of the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) initiative – told the KRP conference that an OPRL app targeted at the under 35s is “in the late stages of development.”

It will allow users to scan the barcode on a piece of packaging and be given instructions on how to recycle it which are specific to the device’s location.

Ms Bevis said it was “aimed at helping people develop those push habits and to give them information.”

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