Reducing recycling contamination in Suffolk

The Brief

From 2021-2022, 28% of recycling was rejected across Suffolk. This is both extremely costly to local councils across the county and harmful to the environment, with household rubbish being incinerated or sent to landfill instead.

Suffolk Waste Partnership appointed Barley to deliver a behaviour change campaign. The communications objectives were:

  • To raise awareness among Suffolk residents of why it’s important to recycle rubbish items clean, dry and loose instead of bagged
  • To reduce the number of black sacks or bagged waste in recycling and therefore reduce recycling contamination across Suffolk households.

The campaign aimed to engage households across Suffolk. We especially needed to focus on audiences where there are higher rates of recycling contamination – in this case, people living in flats or in multiple occupancy households.


Insights and Approach

The campaign suggested a simple solution that would make correct recycling easy to do – shaking out recycling into a recycling bin and ensuring it is clean, dry and loose, with no plastic bags. ​

We named the campaign #ShakeItOut and created a piece of hero content – a playful and engaging animation. This was accompanied by a jingle to the soundtrack of the ‘Hokey Cokey’, a catchy and nostalgic tune that would be easy for people to remember. For efficiency and to optimise the campaign budget, we repurposed the rest of the content and visual assets from the animation.

Messaging was kept simple and jargon-free to be suitable for all audiences. We used positive and engaging language, which is proven to encourage behaviour change.

This was a fully integrated campaign that helped us to reach all audiences and included paid and organic social media, PR and out-of-home, cinema and radio advertising.

The digital campaign ran for eight weeks, with two two-week bursts of paid social media advertising at the beginning and the end. This was to maximise impact among digitally engaged audiences.

Posters were placed in multioccupancy residential buildings in particularly problematic areas to clearly signpost what should and should not go in communal recycling.


The Outcome

All paid social media ads performed strongly with audiences that were set to reach people in Suffolk. There were 1.2 million impressions and 200,000 engagements on Facebook and Instagram and half a million impressions and 200,000 views on YouTube.

Radio adverts ran across three stations for four of the eight weeks, reaching over 23,000 listeners.

The animation ran in five cinemas across the county and advertising in cinemas reached more than 16,000 people; an additional 46% of people than originally planned.

We secured 17 items of media coverage with a total of 2,776,233 opportunities to see/hear. Highlights included two broadcast interviews on BBC Radio Suffolk and Radio West Suffolk and a front page piece in the East Anglian Times.

Crucially, contamination rates in recycling were seen to drop in the months following the campaign. We are awaiting further data and results.


impressions from social media ads


click throughs from social media ads to campaign webpage


items of media coverage


opportunities to see/hear from media coverage

“This fun and engaging campaign has been a great success, with bright, bold and impactful messaging, both online and offline, reaching tens of thousands of people across the county. Most importantly, we are now beginning to see measurable reductions as a result.

Barley has been great to work with, providing us with innovative designs as well as professional, reliable and adaptable project support. I would not hesitate to work with them again in the future.”

Rob Cole | Suffolk Waste Partnership Manager