Having just spent a glorious week in sun-drenched Cyprus, where temperatures reached a scorching 27 degrees and the oceans were clear turquoise blue, I read with interest that the UK government is proposing some welcomed new legislation on banning plastic straws, cotton buds and drinks stirrers.

According to the article I read in the Evening Standard: “Plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds will be banned in England from next year as part of a government plan to tackle pollution and protect the environment.

A ban on the supply of the items will start in April 2020, Environmental Secretary, Michael Gove confirmed after a consultation revealed overwhelming support for the move.

Exemptions will allow those who need to use plastic straws for medical reasons or disabilities and will be able to buy them from registered pharmacies.”

Whilst I welcome the move wholeheartedly, and all of our global drinks clients have already stopped the use of similar items in their marketing activities, I was left a little dumbfounded to see the instructions from the villa company I had travelled with on how to dispose of the rubbish that I had created on holiday.

The instructions clearly stated that recycling on the island of Cyprus was limited.

It then went on to tell me how to recycle, if I wished to. Wished too?! Surely, it’s everybody’s responsibility to do exactly that…recycle wherever you are in the world – to save the environment including those turquoise blue oceans and beautiful sandy beaches in Cyprus itself!

On further investigation and after much Google research, I found recycling was difficult, complicated, quite confusing and required a lot of effort.

According to the instructions in the holiday villa:

“Here in Cyprus we have very limited recycling and there is no collection from any private property. If you should wish to recycle, then please take your items to your local recycling point.

The blue wheelie bin is for plastic bottles/containers, tin cans and fruit juice cartons.

The brown wheelie bin is for cardboard waste.

The green metal dome bin is for clear and coloured glass and the Purple metal box for clothing.

The nearest one to your villa is located in the parking area (of your local restaurant).  Blue and brown are available here.”

Whilst it is difficult to change a country’s recycling system it isn’t difficult to help consumers improve how much they do recycle.  We have successfully done this with many of our FMCG clients at H+K including Nespresso and Duracell.

Working with our colleagues in the Behavioural Science team we have been able to successfully change consumer behaviour to encourage more recycling.  According to Dan Berry who leads this team, simple steps such as making the benefits of recycling more salient or rewarding – or even fun – can make a big improvement in recycling habits. These help narrior the gap between people’s good intentions to recycle, but our busy day-to-day lives getting in the way.

The holiday is now over, and I will be writing to the villa company to suggest they look at their wording and perhaps do a little more, adopting an approach that encourages more recycling.

In the end there wasn’t a brown wheelie bin for cardboard at my local restaurant, it took me quite a while to find the green dome to recycle my glass bottles and I never found a purple metal box for clothing.

I therefore brought home a little waste cardboard packaging in my hand luggage that I wasn’t able to recycle on the island and will be looking for even more environmentally friendly solutions to take with me on my next holiday.

Ian Withington is Managing Director, Food + Drink.  Dan Berry is director of H+K’s behavioural science unit

For more information on either the Food or Drink Team or our Behavioural Science Unit, please call 0207 413 3000.

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