Recycle Now – but only in England

January 10, 2008

Recycle Now logo

The RecycleNow logo is for a recycling campaign, rather than for materials, products or services.

It’s aimed at consumers, to encourage them – so that’s me and you – to recycle, but doesn’t seem to involve so much effort for manufacturers, to encourage them to increase recyclability.

These observations are based on About RecycleNow which is for consumers and RecycleNow Partners which is for producers/retailers and third parties, particularly Replacing other Recycling Symbols?.

Recycle Now is the recycling campaign for England – which begs the question of what happens in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland!

The campaign is “aimed at encouraging more of us to recycle more things, more often and to understand the positive benefits of our actions.” It was created for the (UK) Government and launched in 2004 by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) to “help increase the national recycling rate to 40% by 2010 (currently at nearly 27%)”. Part of the campaign is direct to consumers, part to consumers via third parties, such as local authorities and retailers.

Does the Recycle Now symbol have any connection with other recycling symbols? This is where things become slightly odd.

The logo can replace the Green Dot, but only for products sold only in the UK. Fine, the Green Dot scheme doesn’t exist in the UK, as the UK doesn’t have a national recycling scheme which producers can pay into. But this isn’t the same as saying one symbol can replace the other, as they don’t mean the same thing.

The logo can replace the mobius loop (three arrows symbol), but only if there’s no numerical classification (in which case it must stay put). The mobius loop – in all it’s standard varieties – is an international symbol. So in England it’s fine to replace an international symbol with a local one! What happens in the rest of the UK? Do they just get dragged along with this? What are visitors to England supposed to make of it? And if the mobius symbol isn’t replaced, does the packaging not get a Recycle Now symbol – which would seem to dilute the campaign somewhat – or does it have one in addition?

Using the Recycle Now brand on the higher volume supplier lines is the preferred approach as it increases exposure of the campaign identity and messaging to a larger audience. However, Recycle Now can also be used to highlight the recyclability of selected supplier lines where the recycling message sits comfortably.

It makes sense to target high volume products for recycling because these reach more people, but also because they may produce more waste, both in the materials used to make them and in their packaging.

However, highlighting products “where the recycling message sits comfortably” seems to be avoidance on two counts: product materials and packaging should be going to recycling no matter what the product, or should be engineered so that this is possible. So, notwithstanding that this is an area that WRAP works on, on what grounds can there be products that can “escape the recycling message”?

Really, all in all, what would have been so bad about integrating the mobius loop, and any other already established symbols, in the Recycle Now campaign? Or did it create a “design opportunity”?

Equally, why can’t the UK – and not even just England! – have a Green Dot scheme?

This entry is part of the Infomancy Eco-Symbols Series.

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