Educate all parties and they will recycle better

Written by: Rick Hindley | Published:

Recent research suggests that many consumers are either confused or complacent about what they can recycle and how. Fortunately, however, behaviour change campaigns are having a demonstrable impact, says Rick Hindley, executive director of Alupro, who reveals what the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation is finding in its particular materials category

Most people put out their household waste for recycling, but data suggests both confusion and complacency are preventing people recycling everything that they could from around the home. In 2016, much media attention on recycling focused on packaging that is regarded as being ‘hard to recycle’ – with disposable coffee cups and single-serve coffee capsules both in the spotlight.

There is obviously work to be done to educate and inform consumers and turn them into confident recyclers, in addition to the work by the relevant materials sectors to develop the supporting infrastructure.
For our part, it is important that we get the message across that recycling of aluminium used in packaging is possible and is taking place. We need to give consumers the confidence that industry can, and will, recover it and that recycling is a viable option.

‘Behaviour change’ is a term our industry uses liberally in relation to communications campaigns. Achieving results takes time and requires patience – and that doesn’t just apply to consumers; it needs to happen in industry too. Every link in the recycling chain needs to be aligned and work together.

Over the past seven years our strategy to increase recycling of aerosols and foil trays has focused on developing partnerships with producers, local authority recycling teams, their collection partners, industry groups and brands. We have worked with the waste management sector to remove the barriers to collecting both materials, perceived as ‘difficult to recycle’, and helped councils educate consumers to recycle more; and we have steadily achieved positive results.

Within the first two years our ‘Aerofoil’ campaign saw both materials achieving ‘widely recycled’ classification within the OPRL scheme. In the past three years the number of councils collecting aerosols has increased from 87% to 96%, providing almost complete coverage throughout the UK.

Meanwhile, foil recycling has also seen a dramatic increase in collection, from just 35% of councils in 2007 to 86% today. Now that there is a more comprehensive collection infrastructure across the UK, we are able to develop marketing campaigns that talk to consumers at a national level; for example, we are able to use social media channels to encourage recycling.

It’s going to take time, and a continued effort, but behaviour change campaigns can and do have an impact and are breaking down the barriers to recycling. More investment in developing consistent campaigns across all sectors – direct to consumers and within our industry – and a collaborative approach towards infrastructure development will ultimately enable consumers to feel confident about how to recycle more.

Fact file: Alupro statistics

- The average UK household uses 12 metres of household foil every month

- The average UK household uses 27 aerosols a year (that's 10 aerosols per person per year)

- The average UK household uses 280 foil containers every year

- Foil trays, household foil and empty aerosols can be easily recycled along with other metal packaging and dry recyclables as part of a kerbside collection scheme

-The average recycling rate for aluminium bottle closures in Europe reached 30% in 2015 (Source: European Aluminium Foil Association, 'Turn 360', 2016)

- Over 75,000 tonnes of aluminium packaging was collected in the UK for recycling in 2015


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