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Feature: Thanks for the bank

It all looked so promising. In June 2003, Cardiff unveiled a crackdown on litter and waste in the city, launching its inaugural city centre recycling initiative.The first of eight sets of on-street recycling bins opened in the heart of the city centre as part of the extensive Queen Street repaving and renovation scheme.

The Keep Cardiff Tidy campaign, backed by local newspaper the South Wales Echo, The Cardiff Initiative and Keep Wales Tidy, featured bins with separate compartments for plastics, glass, cans and ‘other’ waste. The council pledged to monitor usage of the recycling bins, and said that it expected to install more around the city as residents got used to the new street furniture.

So far, so good. Then the council delivered on its promise and monitored the results — only to find that the bins simply were not being used. In fact, the survey showed that 65% of the public did not even know the street recycling facilities existed.

Cardiff council spokesman Ian Lloyd-Davies reflects: “The bins were fitted on Millennium Walkway, which runs past the Millennium Stadium, but the street is not always open and we didn’t support the installation of the bins with roadshows or education programmes.”

And Jane Cherrington, strategy manager for waste management at the council, adds: “Our results suggested that they were too drab in appearance and
over-complicated for the public to use.” Evidence of
this complexity was clear: the quality of the recyclate collected was poor and contamination rates were
very high.

Time for take two, with a new set of bins commissioned and aligned with a clear set of objectives. The Keep Cardiff Tidy Partnership rebranded the facilities and carried out an extensive publicity campaign, and the Thanks Bank initiative was born in October 2004 carrying the slogan: ‘The bank that doesn’t want your money…just your rubbish’.

Says Cherrington of the launch: “Our aims were to increase public awareness about the bins, redesign
the bins to make them easier to use, improve the quality of the recyclate collected and increase the quantity,
plus design them to fit in with the aesthetics of Cardiff’s city centre.”

The bins — simple stainless steel designs with compartments for mixed use recyclables and general refuse — were installed on the main shopping artery Queen Street, plus St Mary’s, the major thoroughfare for the city’s clubs and bars.

Here, the council engaged local bar operators to form a partnership approach with local businesses to try to ensure that more glass was recycled. These retailers were encouraged to promote the Thanks Banks to their customers to help push community
involvement and to get glass off the streets.

“In contrast to the previous bins they were colourful, with two distinct colours making it easy for shoppers to use them and understand how they worked, and created in line with the city’s wider strategy, such as the new MRF facility,” says Davies. “We put together a rigorous marketing campaign, the bins are instantly recognisable and we supported the initiative with a series of city roadshows to let people know about the recycling facilities available.

“I’d say that the difference second ti

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