Everyone at Kin&Co was flush with pride this week after we scooped a PR Moment Award for our behaviour change work with Hampshire County Council, tackling falling recycling rates across the county. The year-long campaign broke new ground for the county and for the UK waste industry. It took a bold new approach in understanding and influencing audience behaviours and delivered some big changes and bags of learnings for the council’s future work.

We were so excited with the win that we wanted to share the secrets of our success with you, so take a look at the below to find out how you can supercharge your own communications campaigns with behaviour change…

Disrupting rubbish behaviours

We joined forces with Hampshire County Council to tackle falling recycling rates and rising contamination (things that end up in recycling that shouldn’t) across the county. After spending lots of time with local residents to understand their values (what they care about rather than just how they behave), we found that the root of the problem lay in existing communication approaches not cutting through; there was plenty of information out there, but residents had stopped seeing it and were ‘sleepwalking’ into bad habits.

We identified three key audience groups to target and set up a three-month pilot to target each one. Underpinning our strategy for disrupting these ‘sleepwalking recyclers’ with behavioural psychology, we formulated a plan that tested a variety of carefully chosen sets of messaging and tactics (such as chalk-sprayed pavements, animal-print wrapped bins, neighbourhood welcome packs and online adverts). We broke away from the traditional environmentally-centred themes that our audiences were used to and focused on appealing to their values.

From the launch onwards, we measured everything we could to gauge the impact the pilots had on attitudes and behaviours…and the results were rather exciting!

Even where they didn’t turn out quite as we had expected originally, we were able to learn and adapt throughout the pilots based upon these insights. Here’s a pick of the top stats:

  • In one pilot, those not recycling at all plummeted by 45%
  • Total contamination in one of the target areas fell by 11% in just three months
  • In another pilot, our target audience’s recycling habits improved by 43%
  • In our final pilot, 92% of those who saw the campaign said they’d change recycling behaviours and 43% said they’d already changed as a result!
  • Lastly (but very excitingly for us), a quarter of those who saw the campaign went on to find out more about recycling independently and their awareness of the recycling facilities in their area doubled!

The upshot of all this change is that we’ll be continuing our work with Hampshire County Council to scale what worked best across the county, filtering out what didn’t work and doubling-down on what did to create long-term behaviour change.

How can I make this approach work for me?

  • Know your audiences – Success stems from knowing your audiences better than they know themselves: their values, motivators, barriers and influences, both conscious and unconscious. Spend time with them, learn what makes them tick and don’t second-guess them just to save on costs – people don’t always behave like they think they do (also known as cognitive dissonance). This will give your behaviour change approach the fuel it needs to create real, lasting impact.
  • Educating isn’t enough – Our audience was already blind to the plethora of information available to them – it had just become background noise. Disrupting using tactics that draw upon behavioural psychology will cut through this in a way that more information can’t.
  • One behaviour – Change is hard for us, so focusing on changing one behaviour only – rather than several – will have far more of an impact.
  • Pilot then scale – Why would you invest in an untested approach with no real business case to support it, when you can pilot a few approaches, see what works and what doesn’t, adapt and use these learnings to create a proven, successful scaling strategy?
  • Measure often and measure everything! – Don’t skimp on measurement. If you’re investing in a campaign, you’ll want to know whether it’s worked and how it can be better next time. Attribution of success or failure is always tricky, but the more you measure and the more frequently you do it, the better you’ll understand the impact of what you’ve done.


If you’d like to find out more about this work, want to make sure your campaigns are working as hard as they can, are looking for ways to have a more measurable impact, or would like wanting to upskill your team on behaviour change, drop us a line – we’d love to talk!