11 June 2021 by James Langley

Material Focus adverts help increase WEEE recycling

Material Focus says up to 42% of people who saw its advertising campaign in 2020 said they had either started recycling electricals or were doing more of it.

Formerly known as the WEEE Fund, Material Focus is a not-for-profit organisation funded by the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) compliance fee.

Hypnocat is Material Focus’s recycling-obsessed feline mascot and the face of the Recycle Your Electricals campaign (picture: Material Focus)

It was created in January 2020 and launched the public-facing Recycle Your Electricals campaign in May 2020 (see letsrecycle.com story).

The independent not-for-profit organisation published its first ever annual review, for 2020, yesterday (10 June).

In a statement, it said the review showed the Recycle Your Electricals campaign was beginning to change behaviour, but there was still “a lot more work to be done” to achieve mass awareness. The campaign will continue until at least 2024.

Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus, said: “Everything we’re doing – our research, investment and our campaign – is aimed at making it easier to recycle your electricals.

“We are working with a range of partners to deliver our work and are keen to work with more including businesses and local authorities and re-use organisations.

“The sooner we get our message, ‘recycle your electricals’, to UK householders, the sooner we can stop precious materials from unwanted electricals being lost forever.”

Earlier this month, compliance fee operator the Joint Trade Association (JTA) said an additional £963,000 generated using the WEEE regulations in 2020 would go to supporting the activities of Material Focus.

Annual highlights

During 2020, Material Focus funded nine technical research projects which examined the barriers to reusing and recycling electricals.

Scott Butler is executive director of Material Focus

It found 155,000 tonnes of WEEE was thrown away in general household waste each year, 527 million unwanted electrical items are hoarded in UK homes, and more than 50% of people who bin their old electricals claim they do so because they do not know where or how to recycle them.

Material Focus invested in 18 local authority and re-use organisations in 2020, giving 2 million more people the ability to recycle and donate their electricals more easily.

In July 2020, the not-for-profit organisation gave £2.5 million in Covid-19 support packages to help UK electrical recycling facilities and reuse organisations stay open during lockdown (see letsrecycle.com story). It says more than 340,000 items were recycled and refurbished as a result.

Partnerships

Material Focus’s partners in 2020 included local authorities, businesses, re-use organisations, waste and recycling companies, government and politicians, and schools.

It created a new website with a ‘Recycling Locator’ in April 2020, offering information on 2,500 reuse and recycling points. The website received more than 120,000 visits in just eight months, Material Focus says.

Hypnocat, Material Focus’s recycling-obsessed feline mascot, was launched in June 2020 to hypnotise the nation into recycling their electricals. He appeared in paid advertising in 33 areas across the UK, which Material Focus claims led to a 100% uplift in kerbside recycling in Reading.

The not-for-profit organisation worked with a range of experts and celebrities including model and environmentalist Lily Cole, Moneybox and personal finance expert Paul Lewis and former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq to deliver its campaign message to the media. The PR campaign led to more than 230 pieces of media coverage including in the BBC and Forbes, Material Focus says.

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