September sees the return of two national campaigns aimed at helping businesses, local authorities and consumers to reduce and recycle waste. Both provide useful resources to help you spread the zero-waste message to your staff, customers and neighbours. Caroline Hand reports.

Up and down the high street, businesses are responding to the growing public interest in eliminating plastic and cutting carbon. One of the major budget supermarkets is now selling reusable bags for loose fruit and veg; the vegan sausage roll is a best seller in a popular takeaway chain, and you can return unwanted clothes to a leading “fast fashion” store. Celebrities who fail to practise what they preach when it comes to the environment are experiencing the glare of negative publicity. So this September is an ideal time to raise awareness still further and help people to appreciate the difference that seemingly small actions can make.

ZERO WASTE WEEK: 2–6 September

Zero Waste Week is an annual campaign currently in its twelfth year. Its founder, Rachelle Strauss, and partner Anna Pitt, work all year round with schools and businesses and might be better known as the inspiration for the Zero Waste Heroes Facebook group.

The aim of the annual Week is to challenge people to adopt one or more actions to reduce or recycle waste. For a small fee, businesses can buy a pack with:

  • details of this year's topic

  • an itinerary listing what is happening each day

  • ideas on how businesses can set challenges for their colleagues and engage their customers

  • ready-to-use social media updates and imagery.

This year, the theme is the link between waste and climate change. Many people feel helpless in the face of the climate crisis: those of us who cannot afford the latest electric vehicle or eco-home may feel we have little to contribute. But the fact is that by recycling waste, we are cutting carbon emissions as well as conserving the earth’s resources. Every stage of a product’s life cycle consumes energy, from the extraction of minerals through processing, manufacture, distribution and use to eventual disposal in landfill. The use of recycled materials cuts out several of these stages, notably the energy-intensive extraction and primary processing, so is far less energy intensive.

The top priority should be to recycle metals, and particularly aluminium: the list below shows the dramatic reduction in energy consumption achieved by recycling (figures take into account the costs of sorting and transportation).

  • Aluminium — 95%

  • Copper — 85%

  • Lead — 60%

  • Steel — 62–74%

  • Zinc — 60%.

Similarly for plastics, a dramatic reduction of up to 90% of energy consumption can be achieved by using recycled plastic rather than virgin materials. For paper, the figure is 40% and for glass 33%. Research has shown that younger people are less likely to be committed recyclers, despite their concern for the climate: statistics such as these might make them stop and think before throwing a can in the general waste bin.

The Zero Waste Week team have analysed the effectiveness of their campaign over the years and arrived at their own “Nine As and Three Theories Strategy”. The nine As are nine steps to take, starting with Awareness and ending with After-effect. Intrigued? To find out more, sign up at www.zerowasteweek.co.uk.

RECYCLE WEEK: 23–29 SEPTEMBER

Now in its 17th year, Recycle Week is a celebration of recycling, organised by WRAP under the Recycle Now brand. It gets bigger each year as more partners get on board. Last year, Recycle Week’s 80 partners included prominent brands such as John Lewis, Quorn, Aldi, Sure, Marmite, Tesco, Danone and H&M, besides many local authorities across the country. The aim of the week is to encourage the public to recycle more, by demonstrating the benefits of recycling items from all around the home. The 2018 campaign on the theme of “We do” reached 14.6 million people online, got 400,000 YouTube views and trended #1 on Twitter.

This year’s theme will be “Recycling. It’s in our own hands”. Taking inspiration from environmental activists like Greta Thunberg, people are being challenged to get active with their recycling. During Recycle Week, the public will be sent out to rinse, crush, squash, sort and separate recyclables wherever they may be found: in the bathroom, the kitchen, the office or the great outdoors. The publicity materials will help people to understand that by recycling, they are doing something “powerful and radical”.

Partners can get involved at a variety of levels: here are WRAP’s suggestions.

  • Use the Recycle Week campaign assets on your own communication channels to show that you are part of a campaign which is accelerating positive behaviour change

  • Post your own content using the Recycle Week theme and make sure you use #RecycleWeek and #InOurOwnhands

  • Promote your status as a partner through PR and social activity

  • Use WRAP’s ready-to-use copy for your own PR materials

  • Incorporate the iconic Recycle Now swoosh as part of your logo, visibly aligning yourself with this exciting national event

  • Embed Recycle Now’s recycling locator onto your website. Email: partnerenquiries@wrap.org.uk

  • Amplify social content by liking, sharing and retweeting Recycle Week posts

  • Light your building up green to show support for Recycle Week.

Anyone interested in joining the campaign can download a free resource pack with printable pdfs and social media imagery from partners.wrap.org.uk.

Events from Recycle Week 2018

Last year’s Recycle Week was used by a variety of businesses and local authorities as a springboard to launch, publicise and extend their own recycling schemes.

Veolia announced the extension of its “good to go” coffee cup recycling scheme, in partnership with Westminster Council and the Heart of London Business Alliance. Westminster street-sweepers have become “mobile coffee cup recycling points”, with a separate bin as part of their equipment exclusively for people to dispose of coffee cups.

The re3 waste management partnership for Bracknell Forest, Reading and Wokingham borough councils marked Recycle Week by launching their free Re3cyclopedia app to help residents with recycling. It enables residents to search for any household items to find out exactly what can or can’t be recycled at the kerbside or at the recycling centres.

EMR, the metal recycler, launched a programme to educate children in schools on metal and the importance of recycling it.

Boots gave staff the opportunity to vote on whether they would like to phase out the use of single-use coffee cups.

Arcadia’s head office in Central London had a takeback scheme with textiles Charity Traid, which saw staff bring in their unwanted clothes from home to recycle them.

Look out for more publicity on both these campaigns as new material is released.

Last reviewed 27 August 2019