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Effective communication is the blueprint for success

In the past 10 years, the world has changed hugely, particularly in Wales where growing powers for the Welsh Assembly have led to an increasing selfconfidence in pursuing a distinctly Welsh approach to key issues.

The landscape for waste and recycling in Wales is particularly unrecognisable from that of 2002. We have gone from single digit recycling levels to meeting the statutory recycling target of 52% in 2012-13 and are moving towards the next target of 58% in 2014-15. A network of waste treatment facilities is beginning to emerge from a co-ordinated procurement process, anaerobic digestion (AD) plants have opened in North Wales and others, including energy from waste plants, will be coming on stream over the next few years. This will give Wales the capacity to deal with its diminishing residual waste locally; residential waste which may be picked up on three-weekly cycle or less.

Communication has been at the heart of this transformation; and indeed the approach to that communication has been transformed as well. The early years of WAW was focussed on raising awareness of recycling through national media and PR work. The focus of the campaign was a series of well received television adverts which let everyone know they could use the services that were increasingly being rolled out locally. These ads have had such an impact that despite not running for a number of years, they still figure in market research with people recalling seeing them and their key messages.

However, we now live in a Wales where recycling is seen as typical behaviour with a high level of the population believing that they recycle everything they can. Unfortunately, good as the recycling performance is in Wales, there remains a gap between people’s perceived actions and the results recorded in waste data flow. There is a cognitive disssonance between what people want to do and what they are actually doing, and we need to give them the knowledge and skills to tackle this.

That is where the new emphasis in WAW’s work has come from; a greater focus on localised activity with a spotlight on specific aspects of behaviour that we know present challenges. Allied to this has been an increasing weight given to getting people to move up the waste hierarchy; the publication of the Waste Prevention Programme by the Welsh Government last year was timely in this regard.

Working with WRAP we have been able to turn their research activity into campaigns on the ground in Wales. A good example of this is the work WAW have done on food waste with four North Wales councils; taking the findings that people are able to respond to food waste prevention and recycling messaging together and actually be better engaged by this dual messaging.

The Collaborative Change Programme has been the fulcrum for a lot of this localised activity. A joint programme between Welsh Government, WRAP and WLGA/WAW which aims to help local authorities undertake the transformational changes required to meet the 70% recycling targets such as three weekly collections.

The people who use the services have always been at the heart of this process and ongoing dialogue and communications remains at the core of the Welsh approach.

Food waste recycling campaign to support AD plants in North Wales

Anaerobic digestion has been identified by the Welsh Government as its preferred technology for dealing with food waste. Prosiect Gwyriad opened its AD plant in North Wales in October 2013 and to support this Waste Awareness Wales funded and delivered a marketing campaigned aimed at increasing food waste tonnages here and in the NE Wales food treatment regional hub areas. Using the Wales wide waste and recycling segmentation model to determine the best segments to target and the most applicable communication methods.

The main focus was the distribution door to door of a leaflet and sticker to the 90,000 household in the four local authority areas (Conwy, Gwynedd, Denbighshire and Flintshire) where the target segments were most prevalent. The leaflet messaging utilised research undertaken by WRAP that stated, by ‘selling’ the food waste recycling message on the back of highlighting the cost saving residents could achieve by reducing unwanted food waste, recycling message are more likely to be acted upon. A sticker to go on wheelie bins saying ‘no food waste’ was also handed out. The scheme is on going, but anecdotal evidence suggests food waste tonnages have increased. This is a real example of some of the collaborative projects that Waste Awareness Wales undertake.

Craig Mitchell, Head of Waste, Welsh Local government Association (WLGA)

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