Is Coke right about recycling?

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Plastic Coca Cola bottle

The soft drinks giant Coca-Cola has linked up with Merlin Entertainments by rewarding users who deposit their plastic bottles into so-called reverse vending machines with half price tickets for some of the UK’s most popular tourist attractions- such as Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of adventures. Their research suggests that two thirds of Britons would recycle more if they were rewarded immediately for their actions. 

With a £4bn takeover of Costa Coffee can we expect reverse vending machines in Costa for takeaway cups? Coca cola are in the spotlight for their role in providing high sugar drinks to young people so perhaps the time is right for local Government to be talking to the Costas and Starbucks of this world. Can the LGA provide national leadership? Coca- cola have deep pockets and councils have long complained that local food businesses need to do more to reduce street litter and increase recycling. 

Offering tax payers money to provide incentives is a thorny issue and one that is gaining increasing traction in local government.  For many years it was too politically difficult but austerity means that times are changing. North Ayrshire claims to be the first council to provide free sanitary products in Council offices for example, as a way to improve health and reduce costs in the longer term.

Is this the shape of things to come and what can local government and their communications teams learn from this?  Should reverse vending machines and incentives be built into leisure centre contracts, for example. Local Government is very adept at engaging communications but more innovation - working closely with local businesses and fresh thinking will be needed over the next few years.

We hope that Coca- Cola and Merlin will publish the results when the trial finishes in Mid-October. The environment secretary Michael Gove who recently announced plans for a deposit scheme for bottles and cans – is no doubt watching closely as should we. With some council’s already contemplating 3 week’s collections as part of cost cutting and a recent trial hailed a success in Devon and Wigan increasing recycling, it is a hot topic for years to come.