Metal packaging represents the most valuable material in the household waste stream and is 100% recyclable. Although every household in the UK has access to kerbside collection of metal packaging, considerable volumes are not finding their way into collection systems. Over the past year MetalMatters has been working to directly engage with local authorities and the waste management sector to increase capture rates and demonstrate a strong return on investment for all parties. The programme has reached almost two million households across 31 local authorities and increased metals recycling in all four of the campaigns completed in 2012.
The backing of the Industry has been a crucial element to the programme’s growing success. Although the metal packaging sector is charged with achieving government recycling targets, MetalMatters’ partners - which include organisations from every part of the metals supply and recycling chain - view recycling as an inherent part of metal packaging production. They voluntarily support an increase in recycling rates beyond the requirements of the Packaging Directive and work collaboratively to bring about the most environmentally responsible outcome.
This style of positive partnership working is mirrored in how the MetalMatters programme is delivered. The campaigns are true public-private sector partnerships - which are not just about the money, but also about the commitment of the people on the ground, reinforcing the overall campaign message in the local community.
Participating local authorities benefit from MetalMatters’ flexibility to meet their communication challenges. The programme is easily integrated across any number of marketing channels and is also scaleable – working successfully within a single authority, as in Sefton and Portsmouth, as well as across a group of authorities providing differing collection systems, as in Northern Ireland and Aberdeen.
While local authorities are under pressure to cut costs, many welcome the opportunity to either share the costs of implementing a campaign, or actually benefit from revenue generated.
Collection of additional materials doesn’t necessarily mean additional expenditure. For local authorities operating a revenue-sharing agreement with their waste management contractor, or managing their own materials recovery facility (MRF), implementing a programme which sets out to increase the level of high value metals in the recycling stream appeals. Local authorities will benefit directly from the additional revenue generated, which can then be used to offset the implementation costs.
In the Portsmouth campaign, for example, the revenue generated by the additional metals captured will recover the financial outlay within 12 months. Larger catchment areas benefit from economies of scale. For example, the Kent Waste Partnership campaign, which covered 12 districts, cost just 19p per household, a significant reduction in the typical cost per household.
To date, the focus has been targeted at local authorities, but a wider network of stakeholders is becoming involved, and this can only be a positive step. For example, the launch of the programme with South London Waste Partnership saw a significant investment from the waste management contractor. Increasing engagement with more waste management companies over the coming years is a key objective for the partners.
The programme is also shifting towards more targeted, specific campaigns to explore the impact MetalMatters can have on under-performing areas and ‘hard to reach’ groups, including particular ethnic groups and multi-occupancy housing areas. But the overall aim is to continue to raise awareness of the need to recycle metal packaging. It is also important to return to completed programmes to assess the longer-term impact of the campaign.
We have invested heavily in MetalMatters, but the real advantage of both aluminium and steel is that you are dealing with a high value material, both in terms of cash and also carbon benefits. This programme ticks all the boxes which both national and devolved governments are trying to address – engaging householders, boosting collection levels, improving quality, and also focusing on carbon. MetalMatters is by no means the solution, it is one programme that is making a difference and there is much work still to be done to understand what more it can do.
MetalMatters in numbers
6 – Campaigns it runs
31 - Local authorities that have signed up
1.9 million - Households reached
19-35 pence - Average cost per household
MetalMatters funding partners
Ardagh Group, Beverage Can Makers Europe (BCME), British Aerosol Manufacturers Association (BAMA), Coca Cola Enterprises, Coppice Alupack, i2r Packaging Solutions, ITS, Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association (MPMA), Nicholl Food Packaging, Novelis UK, Tata Steel, Unilever, Wrapex and Wrap Film Systems, European Aluminium Association.