Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP)

Spring 2016

The challenge

WRAP is a national charity working with government and business to improve recycling, sustainability and product re-use. Recycle Now, the charity’s consumer-facing campaign, are half way through a two year strategy working with families. As part of this they wanted to place a bigger focus on recycling in the 8-21 years age group, using communications to encourage early engagement in recycling from children, who might be able to act as ambassadors in the home – and making efforts to help this to sustain itself as young people go through their teenage years and become young adults. Our challenge was to help WRAP build a strategy for communicating recycling messages to this time-rich but attention-poor demographic.

How we approached it

The project had almost no precedent, with many previous efforts to communicate recycling and sustainability messages to young people having been piecemeal or small-scale. For young people, a fast-evolving and culturally exclusive group with high social-media literacy, recycling was rarely a priority. But as standard-bearers for the next generation they also had a big role to play. We combined children’s focus groups in Medway, Rotherham, Wales, Brighton and Birmingham with stakeholder interviews and two extensive trenches of desk research. The latter combined ultra-contemporary research from organisations at the cutting edge of young people’s marketing and social media with studies psychological and developmental thinkers like Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson. We also looked at successful recycling communications used in the past.

What happened

The outcome was the definitive starting point for an analysis of young people’s developmental and life stages, looking at how WRAP could communicate with 8-21 year-olds, and at the key milestones and life shifts to concentrate on. Our recommendations included positive messaging for the teens which placed their owning of the future at the centre. They also included better coordination with universities at the age of leaving home, a definitive suite of materials for school children, and lobbying of central government to include recycling and the environment within the curriculum. These fed into WRAP’s longer-term strategy.