Research begins into how we can incentivise people to recycle on-the-go


Artist impression of vending machine © Enviroo

A new research project seeks to understand how we can better incentivise people to recycle outside of the home.

Specialist PET (polyethylene terephthalate) recycler Enviroo, has commissioned a one-year Masters by Research project at the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation, at Lancaster University, which will unearth behaviours around recycling and discover what incentivises consumers to recycle while on-the-go.

Enviroo plans to develop a customised reverse vending machine that can collect consumers’ recyclable waste outside of the home. This project will investigate how best to encourage consumers to continually use this facility.

The research is supported by the Eco-I North West project. The £14 million Eco-I North West initiative enables businesses to collaborate with and access the extensive knowledge base, cutting-edge research facilities, and skills of six of the region’s leading universities, including Lancaster. It is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund and allows Enviroo access to the research body of a prestigious top 20 ranked University helping create essentially an ‘R&D arm’ for their enterprise.  

Collaboration with the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation underlines the importance of research and development for Enviroo and this Masters research is creating the foundation for a PhD that will focus on the feasibility of a multi-disciplinary product deposit return scheme (DRS) encompassing a wider range of packaging. 

Based within Lancaster University’s Psychology department, Masters student, Elisabeth Checketts, will investigate why there are discrepancies in people’s recycling behaviours, with many people more confident in recycling at home compared to when on-the-go.

The focus will be on determining the attitudes, motivations and likely incentives in order to change people’s behaviour and make on-the-go recycling habitual. The project will also investigate how to make a DRS successful (rather than just a one-off occasional behaviour); what products the consumer would be interested in recycling and how best to incentivise consumers to use these machines to recycle on the go.

Enviroo CEO, Ahmed Detta said: “A successful deposit return scheme is essential if we are to create a truly circular economy for recycling. With a lack of confidence in recycling and a growing climate emergency it’s never been more important to understand the incentives behind on-the-go recycling to help create a DRS that will create habitual behaviour. We are delighted to be working with Elizabeth through Lancaster University’s Eco-I NW programme and look forward to supporting this research, leading the way in creating a closed loop recycling.”  

Lancaster University Researcher, Elisabeth Checketts said: “I am delighted to be researching behaviours around recycling, working with Enviroo to have a practical impact on people’s recycling habits. I believe it is vital to understand people’s behaviours around recycling if we are to create a scheme that becomes habitual for consumers and help the UK move away from exporting our waste overseas. It would also be fantastic to conduct some practical trials of return schemes on campus. I look forward to publishing my findings, helping Enviroo create a transparent and successful deposit return scheme.”

Dr Andy Pickard, Manager of the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation at Lancaster University, said: “We work with industry to deliver solutions which are better for business and for the environment. Research which transforms behaviour and enables items currently treated as waste to deliver value for business and users, offers an exciting prospect to enable beneficial change.”

Enviroo had its planning application approved earlier this year for its first plastic recycling facility in the UK, in the North West of England. The facility will be able to re-use 100% of the PET it takes in and help recycle some of the 4.9 million tonnes of plastic waste created in the UK annually. 

Businesses interested in working with Eco-I on bespoke projects can find out more by visiting https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/global-eco-innovation/business/eco-i-nw/

Back to News