A lack of visible recycling points is holding back recycling rates according to research for the Every Can Counts organisation. Rick Hindley, executive director of Every Can Counts, takes a look at some of the issues the research raised and how the organisation is developing its campaign to boost recycling levels.
A year ago, in January 2015, Every Can Counts commissioned a study into can purchase, consumption and disposal habits across the UK. Designed to give the programme unprecedented and unbiased insight into the UK market, findings are already leading to refinements in its communications strategy, and consequently extending the reach of the campaign to a wider age group than the team had ever envisaged.
Conducted with input from the consumer insight agency ICARO, the report involved a survey of over 3,000 people in the UK to provide a more in-depth analysis of their can purchasing, consumption and disposal habits.
It found that while 80% of respondents now use the readily available kerbside recycling services provision at home, outside of the home more than half (55%) aren’t actively recycling their cans. Scaling this up to a national level, this equates to a potential 3.5 billion more cans that could be recycled in the UK every year.
“As an organisation, we have two jobs to do: work with partners and organisations in the areas our report has identified to ensure that more recycling points are created at on-the-go locations and more importantly change consumer behaviour so that on-the-go recycling becomes the norm, as it has at home.”Rick Hindley, executive director
Every Can Counts
The report showed us that the UK public drink an average of 6.5 cans a week each, rising to 9.3 in the warmer months, an increase of 43% – and half of all cans purchased in the UK, are consumed on-the-go. It’s our aim as an organisation to raise awareness and help to divert as many of these cans as possible from the waste stream.
Since being established in 2009, we have delivered exceptional progress with over 13,000 Every Can Counts recycling points installed across the UK, thanks to the support of over 60 service providers. To recover even more cans, we knew that we had to understand even more about who was buying cans ‘out-of-home’ and their disposal habits.
One canned drink a week
The study showed that nearly 80% of the country’s population purchase at least one canned drink a week, with 24-44 year olds the ‘most voracious consumers of cans’. We had always been aware that 16-24 year olds consumed more cans when away from home and we were right – 60% of all cans drunk by this market are out-of-home. We hadn’t anticipated, however, that this figure climbs to 61 % at 25-34 and is still sat at just under half (49%) by 35-44. It drops to 39% by 45-54, but 55-64 year olds are still consuming a quarter of their cans away from home.”
In short, can consumption ‘on the go’ is popular amongst most age groups – and there is little variation in consumption habits by gender. This meant that the target audience for the campaign was wider and more diverse and as a result marketing activity had to be developed to reflect these findings.
Every Can Count’s ‘on-the-go’ promotional activity has always been highly interactive and focused on making recycling fun and engaging. Prior to the findings of the report, most event activities took place at music festivals – proving to be good opportunity for engaging younger consumers whilst they have a can in their hand.
We have always tended to focus our core marketing activity to the summer months, with a large part of our consumer activity focused on tourist centres, major music festivals and events. The report findings endorsed this logic and meant we will continue to weight our activity towards June, July and August.
The research also showed us that we had to widen the reach of our activity to target the occasions where consumers are regularly drinking cans – and not recycling them. These include on public transport (63% don’t recycle, or have the option to recycle), in town during the day (65%), in town during the evening (61%) and in their cars (33%).
From the findings of the report, it was clear that if we were to increase the number of cans recycled ‘on-the-go’ from the current base of 45%, we had to develop more partnerships with organisations who would help us to grow awareness of our programme, communicate our key messages and develop the collection infrastructure – ultimately making it easier for people to recycle.
Survey respondents were clear that if there were facilities for recycling, they would use them. One respondent to the survey summed the situation up perfectly; ‘I’m not very pleased with myself when I put cans in a normal bin, but there aren’t many recycling bins around so you have to.’
Since being presented with report findings, we have made huge leaps forward in increasing accessibility for consumers. To cite just a few examples, Virgin trains are currently trialling can recycling in the first class lounge at Euston and our first petrol forecourt can recycling bins have been installed in a series of locations across the South West of England.
We have also developed a package of support for retail, which has already reached out to a combined annual footfall of 68.5 million people everywith recycling points installed at major shopping destinations including the intu Trafford Centre, Grand Arcade Cambridge and intu Derby. In addition, we attended V Festival and Notting Hill Carnival in the summer of 2015.
The future for can recycling is clear. Nearly half of all cans purchased in the UK are consumed outside the home. People will recycle if it is made easy for them – the growth in domestic can recycling is testament to this. So, as an organisation, we have two jobs to do: work with partners and organisations in the areas our report has identified to ensure that more recycling points are created at on-the-go locations and more importantly change consumer behaviour so that on-the-go recycling becomes the norm, as it has at home.
Our experiential activity is delivering the latter, incentivising recycling and making it fun for people to do.
Our message to any business owner, shopping centre or tourist attraction manager, event organiser or public transport operator, is simple: every can you recycle could be back on sale, as another can, in just 60 days. By recycling cans you’re saving natural resources, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and saving on your landfill costs.
Together, we can close the gap between domestic and on-the-go recycling rates. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make a big difference when it comes to can recycling.”
To register for support from Every Can Counts, sign up to the programme at: www.everycancounts.co.uk or tel: 01527 597 757.