Improving on-the-go recycling

The UK's biggest collaborative push to improve recycling outside the home


Ecosurety has again joined forces with Hubbub to bring together an unprecedented coalition of major brands, recyclers, local businesses and a local authority to tackle a significant problem. The challenge? To trial innovative new ideas that will improve the recycling of food and drink packaging disposed of on-the-go across. The campaign kicked off in Leeds in October 2018, with the 12-month results shared in December 2019. It also led to the launch of the #InTheLoop campaigns in Swansea and Edinburgh, Think of it as a blueprint for creating recycling centric cities everywhere.

The scale of the problem

As a packaging compliance scheme Ecosurety is committed to doing everything we can to improve UK packaging recycling on behalf of our members, and this campaign addresses a growing challenge. Recent surveys highlighted that 18 to 25 year olds are twice as likely as older generations to buy food on-the-go, yet millennials are less likely to recycle.

When you consider that every year in the UK we get through 13 billion plastic bottles, 9 billion drinks cans and 2.5 billion coffee cups, the scale of the problem is astonishing. Even more so with the £17.4bn a year food-to-go industry expected to increase to over £23bn by 2022, and recent research by ReCoup revealing that only 42% of local authorities provide on-the-go recycling facilities*.

In the city of Leeds itself, a survey in August 2018 found that 52% of respondents had disposed of recyclable packaging on the go, with the majority being disposed of into general waste bins.

Reducing contamination

Even where on-the-go recycling exists, the cost of actually recycling it can far outweigh the benefits due to contamination of the materials collected. It is not uncommon for the entire contents of material specific recycling bins to be incinerated due to contamination, because food or general waste has been added and it is not commercially viable to decontaminate it.

#LeedsByExample is testing new initiatives that seek to not only increase the amount of recycling, but also dramatically improve the quality of the materials collected.


Sharing the results

Released in December 2019, a comprehensive 55 page pdf impact report details the key learns, recommendations and successes of 12-month campaign. Key results include that over the year the number of people recycling in Leeds City Centre nearly tripled from 17% to 49%, whilst the number recycling their coffee cup quadrupled from 14% to 53% by the end of the trial.
Download the impact report


Linking industry giants

#LeedsByExample has brought together an unprecedented group of key stakeholders to collaborate, including the following:
Alupro logoAlupro logoACS logo      ACS logo          ASDA logo               Ball Packaging             BPF logo            Bunzl                Caffe Nero logo           Coca-cola GB logo            Costa logo              Co-op logo           Crown Packaging logo               Danone logo              Forge Waste and Recycling            Greggs logo             Highland Spring logo             Hubbub             Innocent logo                KP logo                   Leeds City Council               LRS logo              M&S logo               HW Martin                 mcdonalds logo                 Morrisons logo               OPRL logo              Pepsico logo             Pret a Manger logo                 Shell                   Starbucks logo              WRAP logo                Zero Waste Leeds


On-the-go solutions

#LeedsByExample is piloting innovative new recycling facilities installed on the streets and in local offices, shopping centres, universities and transport hubs, building upon Hubbub's previous campaigns including the Square Mile Challenge, Neat Streets and Ballot Bins. Brightly coloured material specific recycle bins have been deployed across the city, all with clear street signage to make locating them as easy as possible, as well as a number of unique initiatives.

Recycle reward machines

Located at key locations including a university, market, garage and a convenience store, seven recycling reward machines test the impact of providing an incentive for people to recycle. The campaign will provide insight into the optimum location and reward mechanism for this concept to work best, including money off at local shops or a donation to a local homeless charity.

The Re-cycler

Building on Hubbub's tried and tested 'Trashconvertor', the Re-Cycler travels around the city to reward people when they recycle their packaging waste.

It's not only about rewards however - the Re-Cycler is the perfect conversation starter and mobile campaign advert!

The Re-Cycler

Bubble bins!

These playful bubble bins tour the city over the course of the campaign in high footfall areas such as universities and at events.

What is a bubble bin you ask? Upon disposing of your recycling, the bin responds with a satisfying burb and a stream of bubbles!

Thanks to a public competition they have been named Gordon and Alan Binnit.

Material specific solutions

49 new recycling bins have landed in the streets and shopping centres of Leeds, all aimed at capturing various specific materials including plastic bottles, drinks cans and coffee cups.

Clear signage and bright colours aim to make putting the correct material in the right bin as easy as possible, with the aim of reducing contamination. 

#LeedsByExample coffee cup bin


An abundance of recycling opportunities

Explore this interactive map to see the wide variety of recycling opportunities in Leeds city centre. 

From participating retailers and recycling reward machines to on-street bins and educational installations, the campaign really is hard to miss!

“It has been incredible to get so many big UK brands get behind this campaign and to see them actively engaging with retailers and consumers. In order to increase and improve recycling in the UK, we need to challenge existing systems, offer innovative alternatives and to share our learnings. #LeedsByExample will do all three.” James Piper Ecosurety, CEO

Consumer awareness

It's all well and good providing more recycling facilities, but the key to this campaign is communication. A number of initiatives have been employed to raise awareness, educate and make recycling in Leeds as easy as possible. Click the button below to explore the various initiatives, you can also watch the latest video from Hubbub on the left.

Signage and displays

A variety of posters and signage across the city of Leeds help raise awareness during the campaign. They appear on bins, on streets, in participating retailers and business and on advertising displays. Indoor floor vinyls show routes to the various recycling facilities and pop-up flags highlight key bins in high-footfall areas.

#LeedsByExample signage

#LeedsByExample social media card

Social media promotion

A variety of engaging social media assets make sharing the campaign a breeze for participating partners, businesses and local residents, including animations, vlogs and infographics.

Keep an eye out for #LeedsByExample on the social media platform of your choice and help spread the word!

Digital screens

A big advertising push around the city centre of Leeds ensured that the launch of #LeedsByExample was highly visible. This will also continue at key stages in the campaign, featuring local residents and workers.

#LeedsByExample advertising

#LeedsByExample shipping container

Educational installations

A shipping container full of facts was installed in the center of Leeds to physically demonstrate the quantity of recyclable waste that is being discarded as general waste in the city centre.

Members of the public could even step inside to find out more information about the problem, and importantly the steps they could take to be part of the solution.

From plastic bottles to benches

A public seating installation features in the city centre made from recycled plastic bottles, perfectly demonstrating the fact that plastic is a valuable and versatile material that can be reused again and again.

#LeedsByExample plastic bottle bench

“I’m encouraging as many local businesses and organisations as possible to get behind this project so that together we can make a real impact on recycling rates in Leeds city centre” Cllr Rafique Leeds City Council, Executive board member for environment and active lifestyles

First trial of an innovative OPRL app

#LeedsByExample sees the first ever UK trial of a brand new app created by OPRL, the On-Pack Recycling Label experts. The We-Recycle app is aimed at consumers, and makes finding out where to recycle a used food or drink container a breeze.
Visit OPRL

OPRL We Recycle app

Taking the confusion out of recycling

Thanks to the participation of major brands, the app provides clear, cross-brand help for people on what and how to recycle. 

How does it work? Once a user has downloaded the app they simply need to scan the bar-code of whatever drink or food container is in their hand to be shown whether it can be recycled locally, with a map of the nearest recycling location identified. Simple.

It is hoped that the app will appear to the younger generation who make up the majority of the population in Leeds - 57% of the population of the city centre is aged 16 to 24.

Click the following links to install it for iOS or Android.

“The huge range of eye-catching recycling bins and communications throughout Leeds city centre will make it really easy for residents, workers and visitors to spot their nearest recycling point. We’re interested to discover which of these will make the biggest difference and will share what we learn openly so that the most successful elements can be rolled out in Leeds and nationally.” Gavin Ellis Hubbub, Director and co-founder

Recycled in the north of Engand

All the recyclable materials collected through #LeedsByExample are being recycled as locally as possible in the north of England, with cans reprocessed in Cheshire, plastic bottles in Lincolnshire and cups in Cumbria.

A lasting legacy

After a successful trial period, #LeedsByExample lives on through improved infrastructure and continued partner engagement to ensure that on-the-go recycling continues to improve in the city. But that is just the beginning! Other cities are now joining the movement, with Swansea #InTheLoop launching in September 2019 and Edinburgh following later in the year.
Find out more about #InTheLoop

Created with Hubbub

This project was made possible by our partnership with Hubbub, a charity that creates environmental campaigns with a difference.
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Hubbub is an environmental charity that uses the latest thinking backed by academic research to explore new ways to run behaviour change campaigns. The charity explores innovative and fun ways to interest mainstream consumers in important sustainability issues, through different ‘hubs’ of activity - Food, Fashion, Homes, and Neighbourhoods.

Hubbub’s previous campaigns have included #SquareMileChallenge, the UK’s first large scale solution to coffee cup recycling, #GiftABundle to get pre-loved baby clothes back into circulation and #PumpkinRescue to encourage more people to eat the carvings from their Halloween Pumpkins.

Their exclusive collaboration with Ecosurety will see two consumer-facing campaigns a year, funded by producer responsibility compliance evidence money, created and executed by Hubbub. The partnership between Ecosurety and Hubbub will also see regular canvassing of opinion from obligated producers and recyclers about which issues or campaigns should be prioritised across producer responsibility compliance.

Want to get involved?

If you are a major brand concerned about on-the-go recycling, or a local business in Leeds interested in getting involved, please click the button below to find out how you can play a part too. The strength of this project is collaboration, and together we can not only make a tangible difference in Leeds, but provide a blueprint for rolling out successful on-the-go recycling infrastructure and partnerships in other cities.
Find out more