MetalMatters: Reflecting back

Rick Hindley, Executive Director at Alupro
Rick Hindley, Executive Director at Alupro

MetalMatters has come a long way since the first campaign launched in 2010. That campaign was an industry ‘first’, bringing together the findings of detailed qualitative and quantitative research into waste arisings, and consumer attitudinal research, which had never previously been undertaken in relation to one material stream to such a detailed extent.

The founding partners invested a significant amount of time and money to try and understand what motivates householders to recycle, and how to encourage behavioural change to boost kerbside metal packaging collection rates.

The investment is now paying dividends, for the funding partners and the local authorities who are running MetalMatters campaigns. Three years on, we have worked with over 30 local authorities and we are really starting to see the long-term impact of the programme, beyond the initial communications drive.

We knew from our research that to encourage householders to recycle more metal packaging we needed compelling and very simple communication to inform, educate and above all reassure them that recycling is worth the effort. Several creative approaches were tested, of which the ‘transformation’ message was judged the most effective: the simple fact that metal packaging can be endlessly recycled, into an infinite variety of products, really hit home.

In every area where we’ve run MetalMatters, capture rates for metal packaging in have increased, so it seems the message is getting through, and, more importantly, householders are acting on it.

What we are starting to see now is the longer-term impact of the campaign. One year on from the launch of campaigns with Sefton Council and Aberdeenshire Council analysis shows that capture rates have continued to rise steadily. So not only are campaigns covering their financial cost in the short term, the returns are continuing.

Sefton Council are now collecting 700 tonnes more metal packaging a year than they were before implementing the MetalMatters campaign, saving over 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. A significant and positive environmental change.

Aberdeenshire Council has also seen the positive effects of clear and consistent communication with local residents. A year after the campaign metal tonnages collected at the kerbside have risen by an impressive 12%.

The flexibility of the MetalMatters communication programme means the campaign can be tailored to meet the objectives, budgets and specific communications channels of each local authority. And as well as providing a cost-effective way of engaging with and educating householders, an added advantage is that implementing MetalMattters can also generate a lasting return on investment.

We are fortunate that the advantages and convenience of metal packaging recycling is really simple to communicate. It’s the most valuable material in the household waste stream and endlessly recyclable, so the benefits are simple to communicate and convey.

We’re proud to look back on these successful campaigns and see the long-term changes MetalMatters has helped to make. We will now take our learnings into 2014 and hope to continue to develop and deliver strong results.