Changing recycling habits in BC

The challenge

After 20 years of getting the message out about the benefits of recycling, Return-It enjoyed one of the highest beverage container recycling rates in all of North America. However, research showed that there was still a segment of the population who were responsible for well over half of all containers still thrown in the trash. Return-It asked us to find a new way to engage this hard-to-persuade audience and change their recycling behaviour for the better.

The insight

We quickly discovered that these “Habitual Trashers” (mostly active, younger males aged 18-34) didn’t believe that a 10-cent deposit refund provided enough incentive to return their empties. But there was something that would. Simply put, this group shared a sense of pride in being from British Columbia and in our province’s special relationship with the environment. We used this insight to craft a message that would resonate emotionally with our target audience: that recycling isn’t just what we should do, it’s core to who we are as British Columbians.

The idea

The Return-It Gang puppets have built up an astounding brand presence and a loyal social media following by reminding British Columbians to return our empties to a Return-It depot for years. We decided to leverage that goodwill in the service of civic pride: we would feature the gang in a variety of typical BC scenarios and remind both Habitual Trashers and everyone else that here in BC, recycling is just what we do.




Bus Wrap



Bringing the idea to life

We created a series of short animations that brought our much-loved, fuzzy-eyebrowed Return-It Gang puppets to life on the small screen. Animation gave us freedom to use the characters in a multiplicity of scenarios, across multiple channels (broadcast, online video, social and others) to create a series of highly-targeted executions that would reach our audience in the exact moment that they’d be tempted to toss a container in the trash.

The results

Following the launch of this new approach, Return-It saw an incremental increase in the recycling recovery rate. Among Habitual Trashers, the increase was even more significant. For a mature and established behaviour like recycling this was a significant success.


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