Campaigns: Environment/Public Sector - RecycleBank is very rewarding

Campaign: RecycleBank
Client: RecycleBank
PR team: IAS b2b Public Relations/Royal Borough of Windsor and
Maidenhead in-house team
Timescale: June-November 2009
Budget: £21,000

In June 2009, US-based RecycleBank partnered with Veolia Environmental Services to launch the UK's first recycling rewards scheme within the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

A total of 6,550 residents were invited to join the incentive scheme trial, which rewards households for recycling more domestic waste.

The scheme works by partnering with local and national businesses, such as Marks & Spencer, Costa Coffee, leisure centres and Odeon cinemas. Households get discounts on goods and services, while partners benefit from increased footfall/sales and local authorities face reduced waste disposal costs, known as landfill tax.

RecycleBank asked IAS b2b Public Relations to work with the council's comms team to create a PR campaign to encourage householders to recycle and make them aware of the cost of sending rubbish to landfill.

Objectives

- To establish the RecycleBank brand

- To increase recycling rates

- To encourage residents to use reward vouchers

- To sign up local reward partners

- To get 50 per cent of residents to participate in the scheme by the end of the year by activating their accounts.

Strategy and plan

Media interest was generated by positioning the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead as the first council in the UK to have a reward-based recycling scheme. The PR team pushed the fact that each household could earn £135 in rewards by using the scheme. It also pointed to similar systems operating in a number of North American states.

The team used a further hook of Marks & Spencer's association with the scheme to make sure the rewards were seen as valuable. A launch was held within the community to officially start the scheme.

Measurement and evaluation

In total, 226 pieces of coverage on the scheme were generated. Highlights included pieces on BBC Breakfast, BBC Working Lunch and ITV London Tonight, articles in the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, The Times, The Independent and The Guardian. The story also appeared in trade press. In total, there were 102 mentions of Marks & Spencer in the coverage.

Results

In total, 70 per cent of eligible households have activated their accounts. More than five million RecycleBank points have been earned by residents, translating to an average of nearly £150 of rewards per household.

Figures from the local authority show households in the scheme have recycled up to 35 per cent more recyclable waste per collection, compared with the same period in 2008.

The campaign has also seen other local authorities, such as Halton in Cheshire, sign up to the scheme. Politicians including Conservative leader David Cameron, shadow chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson have all voiced their support for the scheme.

SECOND OPINION - GERRY HOPKINSON, CO-FOUNDER, UNITY

I remember Quentin Bell (my old boss, not Virginia Woolf's nephew) saying that there is nothing the media love more than a bit of contrast - dog bites man, that sort of thing. He had a point.

So, rewarding people to recycle rather than punishing them if they do not is refreshingly novel. Add to that the lovely colour and stench of ripe rubbish, a royal borough and some smooth-talking Yanks, and you have yourself a story that almost sells itself. Well, almost.

You have to give credit to the respective PR teams behind this campaign. They did not mess the story up with unnecessary creative twists or try to gild the lily, but simply told it well and told it often.

Sometimes, you are gifted a great story and you just need to focus on the best elements. In this case, the teams cleverly ramped up the self-interest angle by telling people how much money they could earn per household. They also focused on the fact that this was an American scheme, thereby adding a touch of glamour and business nous. Finally, the teams had some fun by celebrating what you could buy with all your recycling vouchers - realising that this was more interesting than the stats on reduced landfill.

If the teams did miss a trick, it was probably in the realms of social media and peer-to-peer activation. For example, they could have created a league table of keen recyclers or a clever info-graphic showing how much waste is worth.

But, all in all, it was a solid and effective campaign.

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