Adopting new ways of working to suit the new normal

Amid the COVID-19 lockdown, Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, discusses how the industry body has adapted its operations to continue delivering its valuable work as the voice of the aluminium packaging recycling industry.

Over the past decade, UK aluminium packaging recycling rates have continued to steadily increase. In 2019, a record-breaking 56% of aluminium packaging was collected for recycling (116,670 tonnes), including 76% of all aluminium beverage cans.

Alongside continued investment from the aluminium sector into ensuring that the packaging it produces is effectively recycled, ever-increasing public awareness about the widespread benefits of recycling is a key driver of these hugely impressive statistics.

Through our inspirational and highly successful behaviour change programmes, Every Can Counts and MetalMatters, we continue to educate consumers about the sustainable properties of aluminium, its role within the circular economy and how simple it is to recycle. However, with the COVID-19 lockdown challenging working practices, we have been forced to revolutionise our activities to suit the new normal.

Embracing the digital revolution

Every year, we deliver the Every Can Counts (ECC) programme – a hugely successful partnership between can manufacturers, the recycling industry and drink brands to encourage the recycling of drink cans consumed outside the home and to encourage the use of ‘on the go’ recycling facilities. Alongside providing free recycling packs to businesses nationwide, key activities include bringing unique experiences to events and festivals that encourage attendees not only to recycle, but to think differently about the value of their empty drink can.

But with mass gatherings cancelled for the foreseeable future and many businesses now working exclusively from home, this year’s programme has been reimagined to find new and creative ways to maintain consumer engagement.

Instead of face-to-face interaction, we have developed a series of online engagement activities to effectively digitise the programme. From the #CANdunk challenge (encouraging social media users to film a particularly impressive video of themselves recycling empty drinks cans), to the Blank CANvas competition (downloadable templates allowing people of all ages  to create their own beverage can design), social media is being harnessed to engage with a captive lockdown audience.

The results of these new initiatives have proven hugely beneficial. Blank CANvas received 718 entries and achieved 429k impressions across social channels, while #CANdunk resulted in 273,000 video views. Collectively, the initiatives have driven record levels of engagement and grew audience figures considerably.

This is clear evidence that the decision to broaden the reach of the Every Can Counts programme’s message, to call for infinitely recyclable drink cans to be recycled wherever they are consumed, is being well received.

The changing face of mass impact

Alongside ECC, we also deliver the MetalMatters programme – a communications initiative that helps local authorities to educate householders about the benefits of metal packaging and motivates them to recycle more at home. Since 2012, campaigns have been run in more than 100 areas nationwide, directly targeting 6,300,000 households with a highly informative two-stage leaflet drop which consistently delivers significant increases in recycling volumes.

With local authorities changing their kerbside collection messaging due to COVID-19, however, leaflet drop activity has been temporarily postponed. In the meantime, we have refreshed the MetalMatters website and developed a new range of ‘lockdown’ social media content freely available to local authorities.

Behind the scenes, our team is working hard on a number of new initiatives to engage citizens in innovative ways, capitalising on the rapidly-growing social media and digital audiences.

I have always been proud of the Alupro team’s ability to review, revise and innovate. The crisis has provided a unique platform to come out stronger and more sustainable than ever before!

Reducing our carbon footprint

Lockdown has raised a number of hurdles, but also revealed new opportunities to innovate. COVID-19 hasn’t halted us, but instead inspired us to carefully consider new and unique ways to promote aluminium as the packaging material of choice and inspire best practice recycling across the UK.

Digitising our activities has proven key to reducing operational impact, as has home working. The value of videocalls, instant chat and virtual team meetings has kept communications flowing, while remote working has resulted in fewer road miles for all members of the team and reduced our carbon footprint.

The new normal for Alupro is a fresh, digital approach to consumer engagement. Our ambition of working towards 100% aluminium packaging recycling rates is clear and proactivity has proven instrumental to harnessing this opportunity.