Ads put new spin on blue bins

Campaign aims to extol real virtues of recycling

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Recycling has come a long way since the days of opening the car window and tossing out your pop bottles and cans at high speed.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/08/2013 (3405 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Recycling has come a long way since the days of opening the car window and tossing out your pop bottles and cans at high speed.

Throwing used containers in a blue bin is second nature for many of us, but the Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association isn’t satisfied. Officials have no illusions about hitting the 100 per cent mark but Ken Friesen, the Winnipeg organization’s executive director, is confident 75 per cent of all cans, bottles and juice boxes can be recycled within the next five years.

That would be up from 53 per cent at the end of last year and 42 per cent at the start of 2011. The hope is to hit 61 per cent at the end of 2013.

Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press Ken Friesen, executive director of the Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association, near one of the new ads for the Recycle Everywhere campaign. The ads aim to educate people on the transformation of recycled products to new products.

(It would be impossible to track recycling if each bottle or can had to be individually counted, so the CBCRA uses weight to come up with its figures.)

Instead of following the lead of other jurisdictions that use guilt to convince people to recycle, the CBCRA is using its just-launched awareness campaign to show them the potential of recycled materials.

Focus-group research showed consumers were more likely to buy in if they knew that used pop cans can be transformed into aluminum baseball bats, airplane parts or bicycles.

Or that plastic water bottles can be turned into T-shirts and winter parkas while glass pop bottles can become the base for roads.

“We don’t think guilt is the most effective way to motivate people. By and large, they want to do the best thing for the environment, the economy and keeping our community clean,” he said.

Peter George, president of McKim Cringan George, the Winnipeg marketing agency that developed the campaign, agrees. He said there was a high level of awareness for the “Recycle Everywhere” program, but consumers simply weren’t following through with their actions.

“The research we did identified that the most persuasive thing you could say to people wasn’t a message about guilt or saving the planet, but showing them what useful things their beverage containers could become,” he said.

Part of the challenge is that it’s difficult to get an accurate read on recycling habits. Most people stretch the truth when answering surveys regarding the depth of their recycling conviction, Friesen said.

“If you ask someone, ‘do you recycle all the time?’ and they say ‘yes,’ that may not always be accurate,” he said.

“There are still a lot of misconceptions out there that recycling ends up in a landfill somewhere. In many cases, it’s more cost-effective to use recycled material than virgin material.”

People are also motivated, of course, to mimic the behaviour of others and if they happen to be high-profile athletes, all the better, Friesen said.

Partnering with the Winnipeg Jets, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Winnipeg Goldeyes has been very helpful, and having spokespeople such as Zach Bogosian from the hockey team and brothers Cauchy and Henoc Muamba from the football club has proven invaluable in getting through to 18 to 30-year-old males.

“They tend to not be great recyclers, but they’ll listen to somebody like Bogosian give the message,” he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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