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Get creative to change behaviour

Last year CCE commissioned some research with YouGov which found that 64% of consumers view recycling as ‘a moral and environmental duty’.

This, and other indicators in our dealings with partners, customers and industry, point towards the rise of sustainable packaging on the consumer agenda.

People buy products in wrappers, bottles or boxes every day and, of course, once the contents have been consumed, it is the customer who has the responsibility of discarding leftover packaging.

Although the UK may be one of the most rapidly improving EU countries when it comes to household recycling rates, there remains a real need for continued growth and transformation in our recycling behaviour and processes.  

While it is impossible not to use packaging for products such as soft drinks, it is important for individual businesses and the wider industry to recognise their role in ensuring such materials are used, and reused, in an efficient and sustainable way. As a manufacturer and producer of 12 billion bottles and cans a year, we know we have as big a responsibility as anyone to better understand recycling behaviours.

Gaining a better understanding of consumer attitudes is of fundamental importance in CCE’s efforts to improve the sustainability of packaging. In 2014, we completed a six-month study in partnership with the University of Exeter to delve into the dynamics that drive waste and recycling behaviours within the home.

Among the many findings, the ‘Recycle for the Future’ project found that most households do not have an accurate understanding of what happens to their waste once it has been collected, with many not realising that their recycled items are converted into other products or packaging. This is a clear indication of the importance of consumers understanding the story behind the bottle or can in their hand. 

A key route to developing this understanding is to make recycling and its benefits tangible for consumers. During the Christmas holiday, in partnership with Every Can Counts, we utilised the success of the Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour by adding a new recycling element to help educate and engage consumers.

As well as the practical element of collecting used material from those visiting the tour, volunteers from CCE and Every Can Counts were on hand to pose quiz questions to visitors alongside ‘did you know?’ recycling facts. This approach allowed us to discuss recycling with the public in a fun and memorable way.

By leading by example through responsible collection, and providing useful tips on how to recycle more at home, we can help consumers to overcome some of the confusion around which materials can and cannot be recycled. Engaging consumers in this way has been a tried and tested method used by CCE and one that always yields results, whether at music festivals or the London 2012 Olympics.

We aim to take an industry-leading position to inspire positive behaviour change in consumers when it comes to household waste, drawing on our insights and research to find new ways of bringing these to life. For example our recent ‘Recycling is the Answer’ joint campaign with Tesco saw us offer general tips on recycling and was based on the principles of pledging as well as the tactic of ‘social norming’ – the integration of a new behaviour habit as an accepted standard of behaviour.   

Coke CCE

Echoed in our Christmas truck tour, we have found that measures such as these to both educate and encourage positive behaviour are very effective and, more importantly, providing information in a credible, relevant and engaging way can be key to this success.

The UK has seen impressive progress made across the industry in the past decade but there is still a long way to go. Only by better understanding the motivations behind consumer recycling behaviour and how to encourage positive change where it is needed, will the industry begin to see a marked change.

I therefore encourage the industry to think more creatively this year about how they can inspire change in consumers for a greener future. How can we, as an industry, continue to break down the barriers to more sustainable behaviours by showing the simple ways everyone can contribute to the lifecycle of reused materials? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts at @CokeCCE.

Giustina Diana is recycling manager at Coca-Cola Enterprises GB

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