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Boosting kerbside battery collections

Initiating a pilot awareness campaign in Bristol

Getting the message onto doormats

In May 2019 Ecosurety partnered with Bristol Waste Company to undertake a new trial intervention campaign with 4,000 households located in different areas of Bristol. The purpose of the campaign was to assess if we could increase the amount of waste batteries recycled at kerbside, and reduce the number of those disposed of in general waste bins or stored in cupboards and drawers in homes. Interestingly, Bristol Waste Company already collected waste batteries put out by residents with their weekly collections, however the amount collected was relatively low indicating poor levels of awareness. A leaflet and five paper recycling bags were delivered to each household in the trial to see if this simple reminder would make an impact.
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The problem of hoarded batteries

Previous research undertaken by Ecosurety has shown that an estimated 178 million used batteries are hoarded in UK homes, with less than half of those placed on the market each year collected for recycling. We have tried various awareness campaigns over the years including #BringBackHeavyMetal, this time we partnered with Bristol Waste Company to communicate directly with households who have kerbside collections of used batteries.
Find out more about our previous research and campaigns
"Working with Ecosurety gave us the opportunity to use the playful and engaging messaging, so intrinsically linked to our brand, and apply it to a national issue. This project demonstrated how collaboration across different industries can increase the capture of a material. By delivering collection bags to the trial area and the initial communication with residents, we saw an increase of 117% in batteries collected. Since then, we have seen a consistent 26% increase of batteries collected in the areas targeted." Gwen Frost Head of innovation & sustainability, Bristol Waste Company

4,000 participating households

Two areas of Bristol representing 4,000 households in total, Lawrence Weston and Westbury-upon-Trym (pictured), received the leaflet and recycling bags reminder through their letter box. Coverage in local and BBC News also helped to amplify the message across the whole city. The results of weekly kerbside battery collections were closely monitored both during and long after the campaign to assess the impact.

117% increase in collection rates

The leaflet drop had a significant impact on the next weekly recycling collection in the targeted areas, with Bristol Waste reporting a 117% increase of collected waste batteries, more than double the usual amount (circled red on the chart). Over the seven months after the campaign was delivered, the target areas were still reporting an impressive increase in battery collections of 26% – a fantastic legacy from one leaflet drop.

Learning and next steps

Bristol Waste Company continue to monitor the collection rates of batteries in the two areas that received the trial campaign. By comparing these results to previous collection data, and data from other areas, it will be possible to calculate the long-term impact of the campaign. From this small-scale campaign we have learned a lot about the effects of raising citizen awareness.
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We are looking at initiating similar small-scale campaigns to learn more about how to effectively influence household behaviour with the purpose of sharing publicly our learnings, so that other cities and local authorities can introduce and effectively promote battery collections at kerbside to their citizens.

In this way we can make a significant step towards improving the UK recycling rate of batteries, diverting more harmful metals from polluting our environment.

"We are always fascinated to discover how simple interventions and nudges can change consumer behaviour to improve recycling rates. Using the right technique, language and channels, it is possible to realise significant improvements. This trial demonstrates the importance of collaborating across the industry to experiment and improve the status quo." Stephanie Housty Marketing manager, Ecosurety