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Councils should standardise the recycling message

Deborah Gray

… on promoting recycling initiatives

Any successful business knows that the key to successful marketing and PR is getting the message across clearly and simply. Yet the Government and local authorities seem to have completely missed the point when it comes to promoting their recycling initiatives.

It goes without saying that household waste collection and recycling schemes will continue to be a hotly debated political potato. And it is predicted that, by 2020, our household waste output will have doubled, costing £3.2bn a year to dispose of. And despite the Government honouring its council tax freeze (a great thing for most), with so many local authorities facing cuts to their budgets and with seven waste PFI initiatives chopped in chancellor George Osborne’s spending review, my alarm bells started ringing and that recycling bee in my bonnet buzzing.

Councils will still need to meet their targets or face fines. Of even more concern, with so many confusing recycling schemes in place, it is we, the householders, who will bear the brunt of these penalties. What I will never understand is how and why our local authorities manage to make all our lives unnecessarily complicated by disseminating overly long - I’ve seen booklets of 15 pages - and at times impossible to fathom, messages about recycling.

We’ve all had to learn to accept that, for various reasons, each council has its own method of collecting waste. This may range from a black bag in one borough to nine colour-coded receptacles in another. In London this is more noticeable, with mayor Boris Johnson proclaiming that “London’s recycling collections are a confusing mess with different rules in virtually every local authority”.

To help the uninitiated better understand this muddle, at the very least councils should come together to standardise the recycling message that lands through people’s front doors. What’s wrong with making it engaging, easy and fun to read? I am not for one moment saying that councils need to dress up people as Darth Vader in green Lycra to get their point across. But I am saying that it is important to ensure they have the public’s interest and full understanding of today’s abundant recycling schemes and their associated benefits.

One idea is to create visuals that engage and educate the public. Design material that encourages the young. Set up easy to follow, fun recycling schemes at home and in schools. De-clutter bin areas. Simplify the messages so that everyone can get with the programme.

While it may be too much to ask for waste collection to be regulated, surely our local authorities can, at the very least, manage to work with the right people with the right creative vision to get the information across to the public in a user friendly, understandable fashion?

We all recognise that this is a time of cutbacks. By working with professionals to get the recycling message across in an exciting fashion in the first place, it can only help targets to be met and money saved in the long term.

Deborah Gray is managing director of Deborah Gray PR

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