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Recycling Challenge: Q & A with Coca Cola Enterprises

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OpenIDEO is particularly excited about the Recycling Challenge because it invites the community to consider how change can actually start from the home. This makes the challenge relatable in a fun, accessable way – and achievable on a global level because solutions can have a collectively powerful impact. 

As we prepare to wrap up the Ideas phase, we sat down with Nick Brown, Associate Director of Recycling at Coca Cola Enterprises, to chat candidly about what recycling means to him on a personal level and what his impressions have been of the challenge so far. Check out his thoughts and clarifications on evaluation criteria moving forward:


Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at CCE

My name is Nick Brown and I’m the Associate Director of Recycling in Great Britain for Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE). I studied engineering before coming on board with CCE 15 years ago, and since then I’ve had a variety of roles with the company including new product and packaging development, and sustainable packaging and recycling. Currently, I lead our work in GB on encouraging people to recycle, working with collection authorities to highlight best practices and also working with our suppliers to help them use more recycled materials in our packaging.

At home, I’m a father, recycling advocate, explorer scout leader, frustrated cyclist, allotmenteer (a fancy term I like to use for my fledging gardening skills!) and breadmaker.


2) What has inspired you most by the challenge so far?

The Research phase was a real eye-opener for me. The community helped me to understand how life gets in the way of creating new habits sometimes – this, and the research we’ve done, is helping us move beyond theoretical discussions about the barriers and motivation of non-recyclers. This is giving me a lot to think about and will shape our future tactics and messaging, especially as we begin to explore some of the great ideas that are coming through now.

It’s exciting to see people coming together in teams to work out solutions to changing behaviors and increasing recycling habits for people at home. We all know how easy it is to fall into the 'just like me' world view and the 'this kind of approach would work with my friends and me, why wouldn’t it work for everyone?' and the community has really turned that type of thinking on its head. Checking out how the ideas are being generated and built upon is becoming one of my new favorite daily habits – it’s inspiring and is my most frequented bookmark!


3) Was there a moment in the Research phase where you learnt something surprising?

I loved the work on social norming and the research that showed that the most effective tool in bringing down energy consumption or encouraging towel reuse in hotels was not to explain the benefits, but rather to demonstrate that it’s already the norm. This has pushed me to think about the language we use at CCE as a result. The recycling industry tends to talk about how much material is lost and not recovered, but it looks like the more effective message to encourage behaviour change is to say how many people are recycling and getting it right.


4) Moving forward into the Refinement phase, what are some of the evaluation criteria you’ll be judging the ideas against?

Having worked on several previous recycling schemes with retailers, local authorities, different levels of government, waste management companies and reprocessors, it is clear that there are many of us who need to work together to create change on a really meaningful scale. This was the primary reason we formed the Expert Advisory Panel to help support us on this – going it alone is not effective or realistic. As we move into the refinement phase, the CCE team and our Expert Advisory Panel will be looking for ideas that are inspiring, have clear behaviour change potential, and that can easily be worked upon in a collaborative manner, to give the ideas a better chance of getting off the ground.

As we move into the Refinement phase, I’d love to see the community making use of tools and tricks when testing their ideas. Maybe creating User Experience Maps to visualise the process, interviewing your users to gain new perspectives, or try prototyping to gather insights. It would also be good to see the community come together on the ideas that are similar in thought, combining forces to cast a wider net and creating more broad-scale change.

As sponsors, we’re excited to support some of the promising ideas where we can – but the essence of social impact is that anyone is free to take any idea forward, and we’re really excited to see where groups of people or individuals might create impact through implementation of some of the innovative ideas. Our goal with this challenge is to create change on a global scale, and that can become a reality with your help.


5) What Opportunities Areas are you most excited about, and why?

Personally, I really like the ideas that encourage people to break an old habit and make a new one – be that bin design, on-pack labelling or stand-alone messaging. They could be powerful, can be scaled depending on support and are not reliant on changes to infrastructure. What could we do with recycling that gets us to a place where everyone is just doing it, almost without thinking? There’s some good thinking on the site and I would love to see that pushed even further.

I’m also intrigued by the notion of incorporating a digital aspect of recycling with mobile apps and the like…the question I would have is how can those strategies move beyond people who are already interested and capture the attention of non-recyclers to take the time to download a game/education/infotainment tool. I look forward to seeing the community tackle this issue and more as we move through the Ideas phase!  


Thanks Nick! We look forward to tapping into your insights as we move into the Refinement phase next week!

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