The drinks bottler (CCE) is leading a research project with the University of Exeter to explore the social science behind household recycling by studying behavioural patterns and dynamics between family members when it comes to waste disposal.

The initiative will take a “David Attenborough approach” according to CCE – and will involve researchers stepping into people’s homes and monitoring how they relate to rubbish and use their bins over the course of a year.

According to CCE’s recycling director Patrick McGuirk, the motivator for such a pilot stems from the fact that 70% of Coke bottles are disposed of at home, but only 50% are put into recycling bins.

Across Western Europe the problem is particularly acute in two of Coke’s biggest markets – the UK and France, which combined account for 80% of lost packaging (bottles that aren’t recycled).

“Most of these lost packs are being disposed at home in the kitchen. People say they are recycling them, but clearly not everybody is. We have to fundamentally reshape how people recycle in their own homes,” McGuirk said.

According to Dr Stewart Barr who will be heading up the project at the University of Exeter, setting recycling messages in the context of climate science is a massive turn-off for most of the public.

“We perhaps need to get away from the environmental argument, it can be counterproductive … climate change is still a very contested issue within the public mindset,” he argued.

While most people see recycling as a “moral good”, they don’t always adhere to their own sense of duty and the reasons behind this need to be explored further, Dr Barr added.

“We need to get into the household and the bin. We will be looking at different types of households, the mix within those, and the ways at which individuals relate to the waste technologies in their homes. Does the look and feel of recycling bin have an impact on how often it is used, for instance?”

The project will be extensive and involve both British and French households as it is these countries where the biggest challenges around consumer behaviour lie. CCE also announced a second partnership today to recycle more of its PET bottles with French reprocessor APPE, representing a brand investment of €6.5m.

The facility in Beaune will be very similar to the one established through CCE’s first joint venture with ECO Plastics in Lincolnshire. It will increase recycling capacity for the brand by 70% and give Coke an extra 20,000 tonnes a year of recycled PET to use in the manufacture of new bottles.

The two companies are investing around €9m in the project, which will also enable the trialing of new reprocessing technologies.

At a collaboration forum held in London this morning, CCE CEO John Brock said the company needed to extend its CSR commitments across the whole value chain by inspiring consumer behaviour, improving collection systems and investing in infrastructure where necessary.

“We are one of the largest bottles, manufacturers and distributors in the world of Coca-Cola products. We want to grow a low carbon zero waste business and it’s truly about innovation because we don’t have all the answers,” he said.

Last year CCE increased business by 3.5% while reducing carbon emissions by 8.4%. As part of its wider sustainability plan, it has invested $23m in carbon reduction projects and is now recovering 99.6% of waste generated across its 17 manufacturing facilities.

Special podcast: CCE’s Patrick McGuirk talks to Maxine Perella about how the company is investing in closed loop manufacture

Maxine Perella

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