With the general public unsure whether their coffee cup can be recycled, Costa Coffee turned to Ogilvy to help them examine how best to drive consumer behaviour towards recycling coffee cups in closed environments. We discover how the advertising giant plans to do it.
It is estimated over 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away in the UK every year, so there’s currently a glaring focus on the efforts to increase recycling rates of paper cups and ensure less end up in landfill. Some of the UK’s largest paper mills, such as James Cropper, are leading the way in separating the 5% of plastic used in paper cups from the paper – traditionally thought of as making the product hard to recycle. However, before the cups can be recycled, they have to be recovered and separated from general waste.
The most obvious way to do this is to encourage the consumer to put their empty cup in a dedicated recycling bin. But with the confusion over whether the cups are recyclable, getting the message across is no easy task, so Costa Coffee have enlisted the help of Ogilvy’s Behavioural Science Practice to find a way to compel their customers to always place their cup in a recycling bin.
“It’s all about engagement, emotion and interest. Get that right and you’ve solved the problem”
“We’ve set ourselves an ambitious target to recycle 100 million takeaway cups in the next year,” said Oliver Rosevear, Head of Environment at Costa Coffee. “To help us recover these cups, we need to provide consumers with convenient solutions to cup recycling.”
For the research project, Costa Coffee teamed up with Heathrow Airport and waste management company Grundon to investigate possible solutions in a closed environment, with Ogilvy given the specific brief of changing the environment in which people purchase and dispose of their cups so that more cups go into dedicated recycle bins. The first stage was an ‘environmental audit’, in which members of Ogilvy’s Behavioural Science Practice observed how people disposed of their cups and surveyed their attitude to recycling.
“We found that people cared about recycling, but they were totally confused as to whether a coffee cup could be recycled,” explains Pete Dyson, Senior Behavioural Strategist at Ogilvy. “People also revealed that when a recycle bin wasn’t within eyesight, they confessed to just putting the cup in the general waste bin rather than going to find one.”
The answer to shifting people’s attitudes lay in creating the ‘whole recycling journey’ – tracking the customer from the second they arrive at the terminal, including everything they do and every message they receive. What Ogilvy found was that just a small change to this journey could produce a massive effect.
“At the moment, the baristas say to the customer, ‘Are you drinking in or taking away?’” says Pete. “Now Costa are recommending that their baristas say, ‘Do you want it in a recyclable cup?’ which immediately tells people that the cup is recyclable.”
Other solutions include dedicated cup racks that invite the customer to use their empty cup to give their answer to a question printed on the rack. For Heathrow, Ogilvy posed the question: Where would you rather go – seaside or skiing?, but this could be tailored for any environment. Designing a new bin may also go some way to improve recycling rates.
“We designed a new bin that had two key features,” explains Pete. “Firstly it’s shaped to look like a coffee cup, so it’s obvious what goes in it. Then it has what we call affordance cues that demonstrate which part of the cup goes into what hole. So the one for lids is shaped so that only a lid can fit through it, while the one for cups can only fit a cup. It’s all about engagement, emotion and interest. Get that right and you’ve solved the problem.”
It’s too soon to determine whether any of these solutions will succeed in changing the coffee-buying public’s attitude to recycling, but early reports are that they are certainly making a difference. By alerting the public to the recyclability of coffee cups then encouraging them to use a convenient and engaging bin, the circular economy of your daily pick-me-up can take one step closer to being closed.
Article written by Sam Upton
Image Credit: © Kzenon – stock.adobe.com
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