Shaping Recycling for the Future with Coca-Cola Enterprises

You are less likely to recycle if you live in the UK and France according to current research - despite a 26.5 per cent increase in recycling rates from 2001-2010 the UK falls behind several European counterparts.

The University of Exeter's Dr Stewart Barr has joined forces with Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), to better understand the dynamics that influence recycling decision making in the UK and France.

The £150,000 Recycling Behaviour Change Research Project aims to determine how food and drink supplies are used in the home and how this affects recycling.

The research focuses on ten households in London and Normandy, France, who have differing lifestyles and homes but are similar in their casual approach to recycling. The project will analyse how relationships and attitude affect recycling behaviour.

A series of results has been drawn up from diary entries, questionnaires, interviews and social media comments. This data has been used by CCE to create innovative solutions to increase recycling rates.

Dr Barr considers that a lack of recycling is due to limited facilities and access as opposed to an attitude of indifference. He believes that the project has huge practical implications.

The project team recognise that 70 per cent of plastic bottles in France and 80 per cent in the UK are disposed of at home in the kitchen. If changes are to be made then these householders need to be targeted and their family dynamics and motivations understood.

Dr Stewart Barr said: "We will work alongside households to co-create strategies to embed sustainable recycling patterns in the future. This project will provide valuable knowledge for a wide range of businesses seeking to influence environmental behaviours, as well as government and NGOs."

CCE wants to lead industry in sustainable packaging and recycling, and they maintain that recycling is about everyday lives and habits rather than simply the environmental implications.

Germany, Austria and Belgium currently recycle 50 per cent of their waste, in line with a European Environment Agency directive to recycle 50 per cent by 2020. But the UK falls behind: consumers express strong beliefs related to recycling, but at-home recycling rates do not reflect their intent.

Seventy nine per cent of consumers surveyed at the London Olympics Games claimed to always recycle plastic bottles at home, yet national data shows that recycling rates are much lower.

For Dr Barr, conducting research with CCE represents the ability to add value by exploring the research process. He said that collaborative research can help both sides to 'open up a different way of thinking, allowing ideas to develop and share the creation of knowledge'.