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Public taught to see waste as a valuable resource

The key to increased recycling rates is making the public aware of the fact that their waste is not rubbish but a valuable resource.

This is the view of Cambridgeshire County Council waste campaigns officer Victor Perez, whose local authority has been so successful in recycling that it has now shifted its main focus away from the practice and on to waste prevention.

The council says it has set a new UK record of recycling 538 tonnes of aluminium since April 2005 and with recycling figures of over 50%, the authoritys claims to have changed public perceptions on waste seem to be justified.

Perez said: We have used campaigns, roadshows, adverts, radio, a complete media mix to get the message embedded in peoples minds. The key has been showing the public objects made from recycled material, such as jewellery made from Guinness cans.

This cements in their minds the fact that recycled metal has a value. By transforming everyday objects into something interesting and useful, they can see how they can play their part in helping to recycle.

The message seems to have got through, because the 538 tonnes of aluminium collected in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough represents 30 million drinks cans or the equivalent of every resident of the county recycling one can a week over an 18 month period.

And now that Perez believes there is a captive audience which is ready and willing to recycle, the focus has moved on.

We will now start promoting waste prevention. We are recycling over 50% [of waste] and we obviously aim to keep this up while starting to encourage the changing of behaviour. We will encourage people to shop locally, reuse goods and donate their old wares to charity.

More and more people are choosing to re-use goods, but we want to see them donate goods that are in good order rather than take them to the recycling centre. The key is making people see them as a resource and not as rubbish, he added.

The council plans a further analysis to find which waste streams need an awareness push next year as well as more of a focus on the behaviour of its 250,000 residents.

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