Campaign: Sutton rallies locals to be top London recyclers - Public Sector

Client: London Borough of Sutton

PR team: Citigate Communications/in-house

Campaign: Re-use not refuse

Timescale: Ongoing from April 2003

Budget: Under £20,000 per year

London boroughs tend to be less clean than other local authorities nationally and research on residents of Sutton showed demand for a cleaner, greener borough. Citigate Communications was hired to raise recycling rates. Objectives

To boost recycling rates in the borough. To reduce contamination where non-recyclable items are put into the recycling bin. To ensure local residents feel comfortable using the facilities.

Strategy and Plan

With media in Sutton limited to two local papers and no exclusive radio coverage for the area, the PR team decided the most effective approach to convey a specific message to a small geographic target would be through an integrated campaign spanning advertising, events and online.

The team created a distinctive identity to envelop all activities with the strapline 'Re-use not Refuse'.

In the first year, the campaign targeted households that already had access to a recycling collection service and those committed to recycling, to educate them about what can and can't be recycled. Posters at bus stops, train stations, billboards and flyers carried cartoon visuals.

Articles, letters and photographs were provided for local media and journalists were briefed in person.

Story angles were created around key dates in the diary when people generate extra waste materials. On Christmas Day, the PR team organised a photo shoot of local councillors wearing festive hats that encouraged residents to care for their environment at Christmas. For Valentine's Day, they sent a flyer to local media featuring campaign cartoon icon 'Al the can' with the strapline 'Love your environment on Valentine's Day'.

The campaign also focused on getting the message through to schoolchildren to make recycling a life-long habit. A teaching pack encouraged recycling-related activities in the classroom. A waste advisory board of councillors, local business people and environmental groups was established to keep the issue on the local agenda.

In year two, the campaign targeted areas new to recycling services. It linked with retailer B&Q to highlight the benefits and ran a monthly 'ladies' night' at the store to provide information on recycling and composting.

Measurement and Evaluation

Local press, such as the Sutton Guardian and the council's publication Sutton Scene, covered the story. Feedback from teachers about the learning packs was positive.

Focus groups and street surveys to measure effectiveness of communications showed a marked improvement in residents' awareness of and satisfaction with recycling facilities.


When the campaign kicked-off, recycling rates were 19 per cent and Sutton ranked third in London. Sutton is now the top performing London borough for recycling and composting with a 25 per cent rate. The amount of contaminated material has fallen from 40 per cent to 18 per cent. Sutton also scores the highest for satisfaction with recycling services (70 per cent).

'Citigate was very proactive about ideas for features, which they had obviously thought through,' says former Sutton Guardian deputy editor Emma Henry. 'They also knew when and how to contact us, rather than sending us random press releases.'

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