Festivals have always been a significant part of drinks can recycling programme, Every Can Counts, as students and young people are a very important demographic and drinks cans are consumed in abundance at the events. The programme’s festival success has grown year on year. Of the 51 million cans collected by Every Can Counts in 2011, around 1 million (or 15 tonnes of metal) were collected at outdoor events, including festivals.
As such, over the summer, Every Can Counts launched a search for three Student Recycling Champions to work with them and spread the recycling message at Reading Festival. Recognising that young people respond to rewards for positive behaviours and building on other similar work developed to encourage long term behavioural change, the competition offered its winners the chance to see behind the scenes at Reading Festival and make a valuable contribution to the event’s environmental efforts. Entrants had to suggest a bright idea to encourage more festival-goers to do the right thing with their empty drink cans and help spread the message that drinks cans are 100% recyclable and can be back on sales as another can in just six weeks.
Zac Hill, from the University of Brighton, John Kilpatrick, from the University of Exeter and Rebecca Smith, from Southampton University were chosen as the three winners. Their ideas ranged from offering those who bring a bag full of cans for recycling a queue jump service for the artist signing tent to rewarding festival-goers with slogan stickers every time they recycled (an idea which was actually employed by the festival).
The quality of entries received was impressive, but it was the candidates themselves that really shone. Every entrant was able to demonstrate enthusiasm for, and commitment to, leading an environmentally-friendly lifestyle; recycling regularly at home and leading on recycling initiatives on campus. The entries were filled with strong ideas put forward by students who want to lead by example and encourage their peers to recycle their drinks cans.
At Reading Festival, the Student Recycling Champions worked alongside the Every Can Counts team and festival organiser Festival Republic and were able to see all aspects of the festival’s recycling operation. They observed the waste management team and helped to run promotions encouraging festival goers to recycle their empty drinks cans.
It was encouraging to see how enthusiastic the Student Recycling Champions were and it will be exciting to see how the students take the positive recycling behaviour they learned and incorporate it into other university and college settings. The project was deemed such a success it could be replicated in the other European markets that are using the Every Can Counts model.
Rick Hindley is Alupro’s executive director.