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How to encourage shoppers to return their recycling

by Laura Gee

Recycling_portalThe COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we shop, possibly forever. As the high street closed, eCommerce boomed growing by 46% in 2020 with doorstep deliveries becoming the highlight of everyone's day.

Whilst the shift to online shopping has been a welcome change for many pureplay and omni-channel retailers, it has also resulted in significant logistical challenges with many businesses finding themselves grappling with cardboard shortages. It’s therefore unsurprising that local authorities reported an increase in recycling in excess of 20% during the first lockdown, and the problem hasn’t gone unnoticed by shoppers. 

A recent ReBOUND survey found that consumer demand for more sustainable retail has never been higher with 43% of shoppers ranking sustainable packaging as the single most important eco initiative they wish to see from retailers. The research revealed that 64% of shoppers say they were now more conscious of the environmental impact of shopping online since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. And thanks to David Attenborough’s Netflix hit, ‘A Life on Our Planet’, 95% of shoppers admit they are now more conscious of their environmental footprint since watching the documentary! 

LinkedIn Dimensions (19)Despite consumer awareness growing, the ‘Blue Planet effect’ triggered by the legendary broadcaster is not quite the plastic revolution environmentalists had hoped for as just 14% of all plastic packaging is collected for recycling according to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation. So whilst influence is essential to drive change, we need solutions to help consumers adopt more environmentally conscious lifestyles. 

The beauty sector is a major plastic polluter producing more than 120 billion units of packaging globally. To tackle this problem, companies like The Body Shop and LUSH have popularised in-store refill and recycling schemes, incentivising shoppers to drop off empty bottles and containers in exchange for discounts, free gifts or loyalty points. However most of these recycling initiatives rely on access to designated drop-off points within physical stores, so shoppers have been unable to participate in these sustainable programmes during the national lockdown.

At ReBOUND, we’re on a mission to help retailers achieve smarter, more sustainable returns whilst enhancing the customer experience. As part of this commitment, we’ve launched a new Return to Recycle solution, encouraging shoppers to recycle more and be rewarded for their efforts. Our new online recycling solution uses technology to provide shoppers access to a return label or mobile QR code, allowing them to easily return items such as coffee pods, excess packaging or beauty empties to a dedicated recycling facility. With nationwide coverage in the UK, shoppers are not limited by physical store locations or opening times anymore and built-in rewards mean that retailers can connect the recycling programme with existing promotions, or launch a new reward scheme to encourage shoppers to participate. 

With major retailers such as The Hut Group announcing a new beauty recycling scheme last month, this initiative to facilitate online recycling is expected to be hugely popular in 2021 to help retailers and shoppers reduce their impact on the environment.

recycling-binsReBOUND’s Return to Recycle portal has already been piloted by HANDLE Recycling whose goal is to recycle 1 million pieces of beauty packaging in 2021. Steve Banks, Founder and CEO of HANDLE commented “our business relies on collecting empty beauty packaging from retailers and consumers. With salons and shops currently closed, our return bins cannot be used, so ReBOUND’s online recycling portal is a game-changer.”

Under the new partnership, consumers contact HANDLE to request a recycling bag which they can fill with product empties. Once full, they return via ReBOUND’s return to recycle portal and are rewarded with a £5 voucher towards any HANDLE product. Once collected, the packaging is sorted into the correct waste stream, where each material is recycled so it can be re-used by manufacturers of beauty packaging. Alternatively, the empties are recycled and turned into HANDLE’s own range of beauty accessories, including razors, hairbrushes and mirrors. Taking their commitment to sustainability a step further, HANDLE also plants a tree with Ecologi to further offset their carbon emissions.

The beauty sector isn’t the only industry to benefit from ReBOUND’s new technology. Ethical retailer Wills Vegan Store is also leveraging the new solution to facilitate the return of end of life footwear, helping to divert clothing items from landfill and improve product circularity. 

Will Green, founder of Will’s Vegan Store commented “With ReBOUND we can provide our customers an easy solution to send their shoes back to be recycled and turned into new WVS outsoles. This helps us get closer to closing our production loop and solves the problem of what to do with our products when they cannot be worn anymore. We expect to be introducing our first sneakers made from recycled WVS shoes later this year.”

The new return to recycle portal follows the launch of ReBOUND’s Returns Regifting solution launched last year, which helps retailers donate surplus stock to charity. You can learn more about the initiatives we’ve introduced to support our Sustainability pledges here.

Learn more about Return To Recycle