Innovative Bristol engagement campaign increases food waste collected by 87 per cent

January is the month for getting in shape, but in South Bristol, UK, it’s the wheelie bins that have been put on a diet. A campaign by Bristol Waste Company, in partnership with waste management firm GENeco, has been encouraging residents to divert food waste away from black refuse bins and into food waste caddies.

The campaign, titled ‘Slim My Waste – Feed My Face’, has been trialling visual engagement techniques to increase people’s awareness and understanding of food waste recycling. Residents were reminded of the ‘no food diet’ for black bins with tape measure stickers placed on every receptacle in the Hartcliffe area of the city (‘Slim My Waste’), while more stickers were handed out for households to turn their food waste caddies into different playful characters (‘Feed My Face’).

According to Bristol Waste, the company responsible for waste collection and recycling across the city, the average family in Bristol wastes £60 of food per month. And this is by no means a local problem; the most recent figures from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) show that nationally, UK households produce 7.3 million tonnes of food waste every year, and up to 5.7 megatonnes (Mt) of that is preventable waste.

Reducing the amount of food we waste as a country is one thing, but ensuring the waste we do create goes to the right place is also crucial. WRAP has stated that only 1.1 Mt of household food waste (HHFW) is recycled – 3.5 Mt ends up unnecessarily in sewers or landfill.

Alongside the stickers, the ‘Slim My Waste’ campaign communicated with residents via social media, where people could share their caddy characters to win prizes. The team also used leaflets, educational workshops and school assemblies to encourage residents to avoid food waste and to better utilise their food waste caddies.

Results from the project, which ran for a month in October 2017 across 2,786 households, have been impressive. Hartcliffe, an area among the most deprived 10 per cent in England, has seen a nine per cent increase in the use of food caddies (almost 1000 of which were handed out during the campaign), and an 87 per cent increase in the amount of food collected from them, from 10.5 tonnes pre-trial to 19.6 tonnes in the month after the trial. In addition, there was a 10 per cent decrease in the amount of general waste in black refuse bins over that time.