Flats offer particular opportunities and challenges that must be considered when planning communications.  This section summarises some of the key issues and how they can be addressed when communicating with residents in flats.

Comprehensive communication campaigns will be needed to ensure residents understand how they can recycle. Communication materials to support a campaign could include:

  • leaflets - to provide residents with detailed information on the service(s);
  • postcards and flyers - to promote or remind of specifics such as reminders on materials or day of collection;
  • letters - often used to consult with residents over the location of the recycling bins;
  • posters - to identify where the bins are located and to act as a reminder to residents what they can recycle at their flats;
  • signage for containers - both to raise the visibility of the bins and to act as a reminder of what can be recycled;
  • activities such as outreach work, events and door to door canvassing - opportunities to promote the scheme face to face and respond to queries directly;
  • methods of providing feedback e.g. flyers to be posted through doors if containers are set out on the wrong day or to highlight contamination issues; and
  • merchandise such as reusable bags, fridge magnets, pens, tea towels etc - to act as daily reminders about how, when, where to recycle and encourage people to participate.

Communications examples:

Security arrangements and letter boxes

Security arrangements can make it difficult to access buildings to deliver communication materials or undertake door to door canvassing.  There may only be a single letter box for multiple households meaning that any communication materials may be picked up only by the first person through the door.  To try to overcome this:

  • Use direct mail as the information is addressed to the individual.  Mail that is addressed to individual properties and left in communal areas is more likely to be collected by the resident than a leaflet. However this may be more costly due to delivery methods, for example walk sort may be cheaper than direct delivery.
  • Look for trade access to buildings.
  • A fire access key can give access to some blocks.
  • Ask caretakers or local champions to deliver communications materials.
  • Make it clear what the communications are for.  Where access to letter boxes could not be gained, Thurrock Council displayed posters informing residents that bags and leaflets provided were one per household.  To make sure that residents in Barnet didn’t treat communications about the flats recycling scheme as junk mail the envelope was branded.
  • Arrange with caretakers dates for specific blocks to be visited.

Communications examples: Leaflet used by Barnet Council for door to door canvassing in flats

Existing communication channels and opportunities

Communication channels and activities may already be established within blocks of flats, or there may be building features that can be used to support communications.

  • Look for notice boards or communal areas and put up.
  • Local residents could be recruited to act as recycling champions.
  • Find out how the managing agent or residents’ association communicates with residents and establish whether their newsletter/website, new tenant handbook, monthly rent statement etc could have recycling information included in it.
  • If there is a concierge, cleaner or caretaker on site encourage them to tell new residents how to recycle and promote recycling to existing residents.
  • Include recycling information in new residents packs.
  • Find out about regular events held by housing associations, tenants groups, etc that could be used to promote recycling; many host bi-annual roadshows on estates which are attended by a range of stakeholders including the local NHS, fire brigade and police to discuss maintenance issues, health and safety etc.
  • Look for communal areas to host events at.
  • Ensure that all containers are well signed with information on what can and can’t be recycled and contact details so residents can get in touch to report overflowing containers or find out more about recycling.

Demographics and tenure

As with any type of housing, demographics vary from block to block and should be taken into account when deciding the best methods of communicating with residents.

  • In sheltered accommodation residents may benefit from large print communication materials.  They may also have care assistants who could help them recycle and manage waste so this audience should be communicated with.
  • Some areas of the UK have blocks of flats with a high proportion of holiday or student lets.  These blocks may need communications to be targeted at specific times of year with clear messages about how recycling works in the area. Sheffield City Council, for example, ran campaign with messages aimed at their large student population.
  • Some flats have a high turnover of residents.  Local authorities can work with landlords to put recycling information into new tenancy packs or provide information through estate agents.
  • If English is not commonly spoken or read local authorities can involve local people with bi-lingual skills, or translators, in order to ensure that the message is effective.  Translation panels on leaflets are not always sufficient.
  • If residents are from particular cultural groups work with the local representative to assist with communicating your messages effectively. The London Borough of Hackney successfully worked with their Turkish and Jewish communities and identified messages which appealed to each group. View a case study on this and other examples.

Communications examples: Sheffield student leaflet (819 kb) 

Visibility of schemes

Recycling schemes may not always be immediately obvious.  To make them more visible to residents:

  • Put signage above facilities / containers.
  • On large estates include directional signage to the sites.
  • Mark the location of recycling containers on maps and put these up in communal areas.
  • Tell residents where the facilities are e.g. Manchester City Council provide every resident with a letter indicating where the new facilities are located.
  • The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea put signage on refuse chutes.
  • Groundwork West London worked with a local youth group and a primary school in Ealing to design a banner to be displayed above the communal recycling sites on their estate. This helped to enforce the recycling message as well as encourage residents to take ownership of the recycling sites.

A row of containers presented for a kerbside collection offers a reminder that other residents are taking part. As bring sites, chute recycling schemes and collection points on each floor lack this visual cue it is important to hold local events to raise the profile of recycling and to feedback to residents how well they are performing. Bristol City Council for example ran a recycling competition between their student flats. They monitored how much recycling was collected and feed back performance via a method of communications. The student flat with the highest quantity of recycling collected per person won a party at a nightclub in Bristol.

Communications examples: Bristol student leaflet (2981 kb) 

Provide information to key contacts

As well as communicating directly to residents make sure that the people regularly in contact with them understand the collection schemes.  This could be through meetings and providing responses to common queries.  Key contacts could include:

  • Council staff (particularly housing officers, outreach staff, Councillors, social workers and call centre staff).
  • Collection operatives.
  • Caretakers and cleaners.
  • Private managing agents and associations and estate agents.
  • Local press.
  • Religious and community group leaders and tenants associations.
  • Staff at local schools.

Want to know more?

See more information about delivering communication campaigns including design of materials and door to door canvassing - Improving recycling through effective communications

Guidance and case studies on developing effective communications in low performing areas.

Case studies on communication campaigns targeting residents in flats funded by WRAP’s Behaviour Change Local Fund programme (2006-2008) are available.  They include:

  • Communications targeted at residents in flats in Bath & North East Somerset and the London Boroughs of Barnet and Bexley
  • Campaigns targeted at ethnic minority groups in Manchester, Luton and Bristol
  • A communications campaign targeted at tourists in Poole

Visit the Recycle Now Partners website for communications advice and resources.

Read a report on recycling collections and communications on flats above shops produced by the Recycle Western Riverside campaign: Improving Recycling Operations in Flats above shops in WRWA area (2417 kb) 

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