The London Borough of Hackney found that recycling rates were disproportionately low among the borough's minority ethnic and religious groups, the second largest of which is the Turkish-speaking population.
From August to November 2004, it instigated a
15-week door knocking campaign, which set out to encourage recycling in the borough, and discovered that language was the primary barrier to recycling within the Turkish-speaking community. For example, the Turkish word for 'recycling' can also mean 'go home'.
Working in partnership with the Turkish community group Day-mer, Hackney Council recruited Turkish-speaking door knockers to raise awareness and deliver information and advice on recycling. The council also produced leaflets translated into Turkish, which provided information on collection times as well as the importance and benefits of recycling. The London Recycling Fund funded the project.
Using door-knockers from Day-mer provided a source of information that was already trusted within the Turkish-speaking population. The community group was motivated to get involved because the programme broadened its contact with the community it was looking to connect with for its own activities.
In Hounslow, the council also mobilised community groups to help it connect with, in partcular, Asian and Somalian residents. Senior campaigning recycling officer Jay-Shree Taank has worked with various groups, plus the temples, to get the message across. The local authority has found voluntary sector organisations a particularly effective medium for accessing people it might not otherwise reach.
"We decided against posters and publications in different languages," explains senior recycling officer Natasha Epstein. "Our sense was that with a very mature Asian population, many of whom are third-generation British, most could speak English. Instead we put the emphasis on face-to-face work."
The council began targeting ethnic minority groups in February, although Epstein concedes that with a long summer of festivals in the area, the focus inevitably drifts away during the summer.
"It's something we are concentrating on again for the autumn and we've had good feedback from the work we've done so far. It has certainly raised awareness," she says. "For example, a number of Indian mothers picked up on our Real Nappy campaign and they helped spread the message to their friends and relatives. It's all about networking."