We all know that it's really important to recycle, but it's often really hard to image how our individual efforts could actually make an impact.
It's really difficult to imagine what our recycled materials could become. The fact that you can make a sleeping bag out of recycled plastic bottles is pretty mindboggling. We need to see value in our waste if we are going to change our recycling habbits.
It's also really difficult to imagine how our small recycling acts can actually make a social or environmental impact. We need to humanise this problem.
Recycle for Good Night's Sleep - A One for One program
A brand (let's roll with The North Face or Patagonia) launch a social advertising campaign to encourage people to recycle. The brand allows consumers to donate their recycling and in return the brand donates a swag or sleeping bag to a homeless person (a swag is an Australian term for a cross between a sleeping bag and a tent). The swag / sleeping bag is made from 100% recycled materials. The brand would donate one sleeping bag per weight of recycled materials needed to create that sleeping bag. Consumers are given feedback on what % of the sleeping bag their recycled material contributed to. This would help people to see how their recycling can be used to make new products.
The brand could even partner with Swags for Homeless to launch this initiative.
For more info on the genius behind one for one programs, check out Shane's great explanation in his 'Bottles for Smiles. One for One' idea.
About Swags for the Homeless
Swags for Homeless aims to provide a BackPack Bed to every man, woman and child who is turned away from a homeless shelter.
Check out some of their inspiring stories here and above.
Making a swag or sleeping bag out of recycled materials
It's probably possible to create a swag or sleeping bag out of 100% recycled materials. Whether it's cost effective is another question.
The North Face have already made a sleeping bag out of 100% post consumer waste (plastic bottles, garment scraps and factory yarn waste).
Patagonia also sell waterproof jackets made of 100% recycled materials.
Consumer recycles products
Consumers could tell brands that they have recycled products in one of two ways:
(1) Brand sets up a recycling drive at their stores - people can bring in their recycling and receive a 'sleeping bag credit' - where they can see what % of a sleeping bag they have contributed to. This could be a great way to get people to interact with the brand and the product (in that the brand could display the sleeping bags, offer promotions, donate % of sales from those sleeping bags to homeless person charities).
(2) Brand sets up a social platform (similar to Shane's incredible 'Bottles for Smiles. One for One' idea here) - user's create a profile, upload their daily recycling activity and convert their actions into a 'sleeping bag credit'. Similarly, the brand could use this platform as a way to build engagement around the sleeping bag product. You would also be able to build community teams (eg: workmates / class / building / street) to donate together and generate bigger impact. This could also help communities to help each other to change their behaviour. It could also add a competitive elements which could encourage more recycling.
More details needed
We would need to find out the nuts and bolts - like is it possible to design an appropriate sleeping bag or swag? Are any brands willing to get involved? How many recycled bottles does it take to make a sleeping bag - is this too high to illustrate the benefits of behvioural change? How can we enage people to accurately document what materials they have recycled (this problem has been discussed at length by Rob Han with his Less idea over here).