In the lead-up to the Waste & Resource Strategy Summit 2023 we caught up with leading experts on resource recovery education initiatives from both the public and private sector.
Read on to gain insights from Alice Kuepper, Head of Sustainable Business and Corporate Social Responsibility, Winning Group, Elyse Marcolin, Resource Recovery Education Officer, Penrith City Council and Jenny Geddes, Chief Executive Officer, Clean Up Australia as they explore:
- The key challenges to waste and resource recovery education on a large scale
- Guidance on how to change mindsets when there’s resistance from the audience
- The best approaches to sustain interest in waste, recycling and resource recovery programs within a community or target market
- Effective strategies to adapt education programs to match your specific audience
- Creating successful initiatives to improve community and customer behaviour towards recycling
- Growing community and customer engagement for voluntary programs
What are some of the biggest challenges in educating large groups on a specific issue like recycling?
Elyse Marcolin, Resource Recovery Education Officer, Penrith City Council
Reaching smaller pockets of the community often needs creative strategies. Also finding the balance between a message being broad enough to apply to everyone but still feeling relevant to individuals can be a challenge.
Alice Kuepper, Head of Sustainable Business and Corporate Social Responsibility, Winning Group
To create behavioral change to be more sustainable such as recycling, you need to tap into people’s unique drivers and motivations. In a large group or diverse audience, everybody’s motivations are different, so it is difficult to find a common denominator. As part of our mission to create the best experiences in the world and for the world, one of our focuses is on raising awareness and educating our teams, our customers and our supply partners. For our teams we ran interactive workshops to gain their buy-in and to co-create solutions. To educate our customers, Appliances Online launched the Maintain Campaign as an initiative to educate customers on sustainable ways to use their appliances.
Jenny Geddes, Chief Executive Officer, Clean Up Australia
The lack of national harmonisation and lack of trust in the system are of course big issues, but ultimately, I think the key challenge is simply that recycling is really confusing!
Nine in ten Aussies say that recycling is important, but sadly too many people think that what they learnt back at school or while living in another city or suburb still applies now, forgetting that technology and our infrastructure is constantly changing. We need to move Australians away from this “set and forget” mentality. The good news is that we can now recycle basketballs, sports shoes, blister-packs, coffee cups, plant pots and mobile phones - but none of these things can go in your kerbside bin.
That’s why we’re such big fans of ACOR’s Recycle Mate app – it has catalogued not only the different bin systems for every single LGA across Australia but has geolocated more than 40,000 away-from-home reuse and recycling options. And best of all it’s dynamic, so by using your location data, it provides you with the correct info, whether you’re at home, at work in a different suburb or on holidays interstate! Can you believe that during its product development, the team consulted councils across NSW and found 3,800 variations in how councils manage their waste! Is it really any wonder that communities are confused?
When there’s resistance from a community or market, what’s a tactic that can help change mindsets?
We focus on providing engaging content to our customers that is visual and compelling to outline the benefits of better waste management and recycling specific to the community.
Using humour and encouraging the positive achievements that have already been accomplished can be a great way of breaking through to those who may be resistant to change.
How do you sustain interest in waste, recycling and resource recovery programs within a community?
We often hear that participating in a Clean Up Australia event changes the way people think about their everyday habits and the practical changes each of us can make. Everyone who gets involved tells us how rewarding the day is and how it has made a lasting positive impact.
We know that Australia's environmental challenges can't be solved in just one day. We can do so much better, and Australians want to see change. Clean Up Australia gives Australians practical ways to be part of that. It is important not to underestimate the strength of a community and the power of the individual. From picking up rubbish on a beach, to making informed purchasing choices and recycling properly and reducing our food waste – there’s a myriad of ways we can all make steps towards living more sustainably. By making small lifestyle changes, we can help reduce the impact of waste on our planet.
Our website has a trove of information about the state of the environment and how we can all improve our environmental footprint. At Clean Up Australia we love that quote – “we don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
How does your specific audience dictate your education strategy? For example, how does it vary if you’re trying to educate children, teens, adults or older generations?
We adapt our content on all of our owned channels. How we discuss our recycling program is different on our consumer social media channels like Instagram and Facebook, than it is on our EDMs, or on LinkedIn. This is reflective of our varying audiences including existing customers, potential new customers, our supply partners and the business community.
Appropriateness of communication channels will vary depending on target audience (particularly age). Content being delivered in an age-appropriate way is important to avoid content being misunderstood or residents feeling patronised.
What are some effective marketing strategies to improve community and customer behaviour towards recycling?
Some effective strategies include rewards and positive reinforcement programs, social norming of correct sorting behaviours, face to face education, and engagement with the community through conversations that are non-threatening.
We focus on removing any barriers to recycling by making it convenient and free of charge for our customers. Since the introduction of our recycling program in 2005, we have helped customers recycle more than 80,000 tonnes of electronics and appliances. We make it extremely efficient for our customers; all they need to do is opt for their old appliance to be picked up and recycled. Our drivers will then come and collect their old appliance (along with the delivery of their new appliance) and bring it back to our DCs across the country. From there we work in conjunction with waste contractors to ensure the old appliances go to licensed scrap metal yards, providing a safe way for them to be recycled.
How can you grow community or consumer engagement for voluntary stewardship programs?
Create awareness about the program, offering incentives such as rewards. Engage in community outreach and highlight the success and impact of the program. It’s also important to make it easy for people to participate. It’s also helpful to stay in touch with participants, provide updates and feedback, and encourage their continued participation to help sustain engagement over time.
We integrate it into our existing customer journey by providing an easy experience for our customers and removing all barriers. For example with mattresses we have created a free recycling program for our customers. Our drivers pick up the old mattresses from our customer’s home upon delivery of the new one which makes the process extremely frictionless for our customers.
What is the next step for Australia in order to protect our environment?
A national approach is crucial in Australia’s pursuit of a truly circular economy. It’s wonderful that Australia has joined a coalition of nations that intend to end plastic pollution and re-use and recycle all plastic waste by 2040, but in order for this to be realised, we have to create a demand for products made with recycled content. As we’ve seen recently, you can have the best collection program in the world, but until you collect it, put it in a product and someone purchases that product, it’s not recycled.
I’m excited that the ReMade in Australia label is expected to be available for products that meet the recycled content criteria by the end of this year. This will be a much-needed step in giving consumers confidence that they are buying products, packaging or construction goods that genuinely contain recycled content. We know too well that Australian consumers want to buy more sustainable and ethically produced goods and this labelling system can help them avoid greenwashing and drive a circular economy in Australia.
Clean Up Australia Day is another great opportunity to take practical, positive action to improve the environment. Our vision is to have millions of Australians rally together on Sunday 5 March 2023 to protect and improve the environment. Most Australians have a heightened concern for the environment at the moment and signing up to Clean Up Australia Day means you get tools to act, to making an actual difference in a hands-on way. Registration is free and participants receive a free Clean Up kit, containing gloves and bags and other resources, with packs for individuals, families and community groups available (we ask that businesses pay a small fee to cover costs). And if you can’t join in, you can make a donation to Clean Up Australia with 100% of funds raised through donations going directly to empowering Australians to take positive action for the environment. To register or donate, please visit cleanup.org.au.
To learn and hear more from Jenny Geddes, Alice Kuepper and Elyse Marcolin, make sure you join us at the 5th annual Waste & Resource Strategy Summit 2023 in March.
Remember to read the agenda to find out what else is on offer at the event.
Book your tickets here.