Gearing up for Recycle Week – we need you to get on board

Dr Marcus Gover, CEO WRAP

It’s sometimes felt as if life has been put on hold while the world tried to hold the onslaught of COVID-19 at bay. But, thankfully, some things have continued. Sometimes against all the odds. So, parks are still being kept tidy, streets are cleaned, and our bins are being emptied.

I was delighted to hear recently that some councils are reporting that recycling has actually increased; some by as much as a third. It’s testament to the many unsung heroes who kept going. And it also means residents are still doing the right thing for the environment; safe in the knowledge that their local authorities are still maintaining this vital service.

This is important on so many levels: it shows people have not lost faith in recycling. It also sends an important message that the environment cannot be put on hold whilst we focus on the social good. I’m a firm believer that the two are interlinked – the pandemic has exposed the fragility of our make-use-dispose culture; it has shown us how encroaching on natural habitats brings with it the threat of disease, and it has given us a window to glimpse into the impact on our lives and our communities if we do not tackle the looming threat of climate change.

This is what has driven me and my colleagues at WRAP since the start of the pandemic. Our vision, of a world where we use resources sustainably for the good of both people and planet, is not only relevant to the future, but to the now. And so, my immediate fear, that our agenda would be put on ice and we couldn’t deliver from home, was unfounded. As it happens, we’ve ended up being busier than ever. 

We’ve not only been able to rise to the challenge of delivering planned work, but also introduced new initiatives which were an important part of the national collective response to the impact of the pandemic. Our grant schemes, for example, have enabled more than 150 charities to redistribute surplus food to thousands of needy families. We’ve also been able to link up companies to support organisations appealing for help – for example, the supply of protection covers for baby incubators in the COVID-19 isolation rooms at a hospital in Wales.

Now, as we pass through the eye of the storm (barring, of course a second wave), we are focusing on how we can support policy makers and businesses in the post-COVID recovery.

Our six-point plan, incorporated into a recent report from WRAP experts, articulates why and how the UK must urgently transition to a circular economy to give us the best possible chance to build back better and strong enough to withstand future shocks to our economies and way of life. The potential of a circular economy to create up to 500,000 net jobs presents a particularly compelling case, especially in the context of the latest employment statistics from the Office for National Statistics which demonstrate just what an impact the pandemic has had on the UK jobs market.

Recycling is an important means of building a circular system which keeps valuable materials in the economy and out of the environment. It has arguably been one of the UK’s greatest environmental achievements. But we need to go further, and faster.

And so, we are gearing up for this year’s Recycle Week to not only go ahead as planned – this year 21 to 27 September - but to be the biggest yet. It will be a hard act to follow – our  hard-hitting film from last year won the gold award in the environment category at last week’s EVCOM industry awards, but we have massively exciting plans in the pipeline.

People and planet will also be at the heart of this year’s theme, and we will also be taking the opportunity to thank the nation for their fantastic recycling efforts throughout lockdown and motivating them to keep on doing the right thing, for our environment and our communities. 

Recycle Week has always drawn the support of brands and businesses of all sizes as well as local authorities. In the 16 years since its inception they have helped drive its continued growth, and it is their support – along with the huge public and media backing – which makes it the UK’s biggest annual recycling campaign. 

And it’s a campaign which continues to go from strength to strength. Last year, thanks to the 221 partners who supported Recycle Week online, we reached 16 million people through digital channels alone; 91% of people who saw the campaign said they recycled more than the previous year. 

But success depends on more than simple support so this year we are offering businesses the opportunity to financially support the cost of running Recycle Week. I want to thank all those businesses who have already made donations which will allow us to make Recycle Week 2020 extra special - amongst them Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Co-op, Britvic, Highland Spring, Unilever, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Danone, PepsiCo, RB, Ecosurety and Suez. I cannot stress enough how critical their contributions are to our ambitious plans, and ultimately to our impact on people and planet. 

It is not too late to add your donation so please get in touch if you want to join the list of businesses who are demonstrating their commitment to the environment to their customers, staff, investors and the wider community by supporting Recycle Week 2020.

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You can learn more about how you can get involved in our partner pack, or if you’re ready to contribute to Recycle Week 2020’s success, email PartnerEnquiries@wrap.org.uk