Behavior Change
Coca-Cola Enterprises, OpenIDEO Challenging Consumers to Improve Recycling Habits

Coke bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) has teamed up with online innovation platform OpenIDEO to try and break the habit of poor recycling performance in homes across Britain and France. Only roughly half of all plastic bottles sold currently collected for recycling in the two countries.

The two organizations have launched a recycling challenge to co-create solutions that will help improve at-home recycling habits. The 11-week challenge will draw on OpenIDEO’s 60,000 members from across the globe as part of CCE’s ‘Recycle for the Future’ campaign.

Roughly 75 percent of British and French people claim to ‘always’ recycle plastic bottles at home. However, recycling rates don’t reflect this, with only around half of all plastic bottles sold currently collected for recycling in the two countries. The ‘Recycle for the Future’ project aims to identify the reasons behind the gap between people’s intentions and actions, and seek solutions to increase recycling rates.

CCE, which manufactures, bottles and markets Coca-Cola products in Western Europe, initially commissioned a study with the University of Exeter to better understand how household dynamics influence recycling behaviors. The study, Unpacking the Household, observed 20 families, couples and single-person households in Great Britain and France, for six months. It found that:

  • People don’t make conscious decisions about recycling; people have instinctive behaviour built into their everyday lives, which doesn’t always include recycling;
  • The recycling infrastructure in households must be adjusted. Additional physical space is needed to make recycling a more viable activity, but aesthetics are a barrier, with few study participants willing to make room for a recycling bin;
  • The majority of households do not have an accurate understanding of what happens to their waste once it has been collected, with many not realising that their recycled items are returned to them as other products or packaging;
  • Common misconceptions continue to exist. Households are sceptical about what happens to their recycling once collected, with many believing it is all ‘sent to landfill’ or ‘exported abroad’; and
  • Digital communication and social media could be put to greater use, encouraging people to form new recycling habits.

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The findings from the study are now being used as a basis for setting an online challenge — using OpenIDEO’s innovation community — to help come up with innovative, yet practical solutions to encourage people across Europe to recycle more.

“Recycling is something in which we all have a role to play, and as one of the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottlers we recognise we have a responsibility to address today’s social and environmental challenges,” said Joe Franses, corporate responsibility and sustainability director for CCE. “While we can leverage our experience and expertise to educate and inspire consumers to recycle more often, we recognise we don’t have all the answers. So, we are collaborating with other thought leaders, and the best creative minds in the OpenIDEO global community, to help generate ideas that could deliver real change in at-home recycling habits.”

In the first part of the challenge, everyone is invited to share their stories and insights, building up context around the challenge. Following this, the ideas phase begins, where people submit ideas and collaborate to develop and refine them further.

Once the challenge closes on 17 June 2014 — and has been evaluated both by the community and an external advisory panel, who will also provide advice throughout the challenge — the ideas with the most potential for impact will be revealed.

To follow the study or find out more, visit the website.

Speaking of poor home-recycling habits, Cone Communications and Johnson & Johnson recently released a report that examined those in the US — the study found that while 72 percent of consumers consistently recycle in the home, only about half do so in rooms beyond the kitchen; like their British and French counterparts, many attributed this to, among other things, a lack of recycling bins throughout the house.

Last month, Coca-Cola launched a campaign in Bangladesh meant to engage youth in the importance of recycling by making it fun. The company installed an arcade machine — the “Happiness Arcade,” which runs on empty plastic Coke bottles instead of coins — in six locations across the city of Dhaka over six days. Coke says the activation collected thousands of bottles, which will be converted into pellets for reuse in other products, and will be continued in the coming months.

A version of this post first appeared on the 2degrees blog on April 4, 2014.

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