Keeping recovery comms in the neighbourhood

Faced with fierce budget cuts, local authority decision makers may be tempted to slash non-statutory functions like communications. But as Mandy Kelly explains, this important service can help drive up recycling

While the debate over the relative merits of different material collection schemes continues, it’s easy to overlook the influence the local community can make, regardless of collection method, in making a scheme a success.

In fact, time and money spent on local community engagement can improve enormously a recycling scheme’s take-up rate and residents’ compliance, which not only delivers greater volumes of collected material but also increases the material quality.

Palm Recycling has an active programme of local engagement which it rolls out across most of its local authority contracts. This takes many forms and each individual programme is tailored to the needs and demographics of the region.

In Sefton on Merseyside, for example, a promotions officer has been placed in the local authority to promote awareness about what can be recycled and to encourage the local community to think about “recycling” in their everyday activity.

On-going throughout the year, the promotional officer’s work also involves drawing attention to recycling around particular events and celebrations, such as Christmas when there is an increase in waste produced. Through a little prompting and persuasion waste can be re-directed from landfill and recycled.

Recycling figures produced by Palm Recycling, show that clear, consistent local communication to householders, encouraging them to recycle more materials, more often does generate larger volumes of material.

The steady drip-feed of soft educational messages helps with material differentiation, especially in source segregated and dual-stream schemes, which vastly improves material quality and reduces contamination.

Most residents do want to do more in terms of recycling and rates are improving generally, but activity that links the processes of recycling to positive messages, particularly to the part they are playing to the benefit of their own environment, does deliver good results. This education is vital as it informs why recycling is important in terms of the environment, finite resources and sustainability.

Palm Recycling also works with local schools promoting recycling through competitions and incentives. A recent competition run in partnership with Gosport Borough Council to promote a paper bank service challenges local schools to collect material. The winning school, in terms of tonnage per pupil, receives prizes such as outdoor playground furniture, which is made from recycled materials. Programmes like this are easy to administer, make for good local recycling publicity and generate a tremendous amount of paper for recycling.

In these austere times it would be all too easy to reduce engagement with the local community or drop it completely, but we all have a role to play – the local authorities, the recycling service provider, partners and the community – in helping the sustainability of resources.

The benefits of a co-ordinated and consistent communications programme, developed and rolled out in partnership with local authorities, are essential in increasing recycling rates within local communities.

Mandy Kelly is business development and planning manager at Palm Recycling

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