Putting communication at the heart of the UK’s Net Zero efforts


The enormous task we face in helping the UK to meet its Net Zero targets by 2050 is daunting.

It’s only when you listen to waste and recycling specialists working in the sector that you begin to really appreciate the sheer scale of the job ahead and just how far we need to progress if we are to get anywhere near this target.

However, despite the mountain that we, as a society, must climb in a bid to create a cleaner, carbon neutral environment, the DTW team was left feeling inspired and hopeful after attending the North East Recycling Forum (NERF) Annual Conference in Newcastle recently.

Attended and supported by some of the region’s leading and most ambitious waste and recovery specialists from both the private and public sectors, it was both unnerving and enlightening to hear what needs to be done to help the region move closer to Net Zero targets, along with the amazing things that are already happening.

And, crucially, it was heartening to hear speakers agree that communication and engagement are key.

From Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Hospitals Trust leading the way with its innovative waste management programme that is increasing the reuse of materials and reducing waste, to Northumbria Healthcare Trust embarking on an impressive sustainability programme across all of its county-wide centres, and GAP Group UK working to recycle – by-hand – thousands of single-use vapes every week; there is much to be proud of in the region and many reasons to feel hopeful.

We are blessed to have such an active and passionate group of waste and recycling specialists in the region, who are not only investing in the latest green initiatives, but who are sharing best practice with their peers. NERF is an excellent way to bring experts together, allowing them to network and explore.

However, what is clear is that the success of any behaviour change campaign lies in buy-in from the wider community and excellent communication and engagement with all stakeholders, including employees, members of the public, businesses, local politicians, community leaders, membership bodies, and educational establishments.

We need the innovation, technology and investment to get us on the right path to Net Zero success, but without a strategic approach to communication, education, and behaviour change, we simply will not meet the targets set.

In fact, success may depend entirely on messaging, how well we engage and enthuse people to support recycling and reuse campaigns, and how easy we make it for them to get on board.

Clear communication must run through every vein of an organisation, from the CEO at the top to the support staff at the bottom, and out through a variety of tools to all of our audiences.

It’s important to appreciate that when it comes to how we deal with our waste, most people want to do the right thing, but we must:

  • Tell people what we want them to do
  • Explain the benefits – with insight, evidence and figures
  • And make it easy for everyone to participate.

We mustn’t underestimate people’s willingness to help. Yes, they may be busy and have a dozen balls to juggle, but they still want to be engaged and to help, so let’s get them involved.

Paul Vanston, Chief Executive of the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN), shared statistics that demonstrated a clear link between how engaged stakeholders are and the success of recycling rates.

He said those people who had faith in their local recycling system and understood what was happening with their recycled waste were much more likely to get on board and increase their recycling rates.

In contrast, those without that knowledge and with little faith in the system were much less inclined to reuse and recycle.

The figures showed that, whilst Wales was performing better than other parts of Great Britain, both in confidence levels and recycling rates, there was still much progress needed across the board.

In short, we need to educate and engage people to recycle more, in order to encourage behaviour change.

INCPEN stated that “maintaining residents’ confidence in recycling is important since it strongly correlates with both how local residents rate their services, as well as their own recycling behaviour”.

That is surely proof that every organisation should be throwing their weight behind good strategic communications campaigns in order to meet objectives and realise success.

DTW is extremely proud to work with a number of leading businesses in the waste sector, as well as public sector organisations, who are striving for greener outcomes and who are committed to engaging their stakeholders in order to reduce carbon emissions and help the UK to meet Net Zero targets.

Like us, they recognise that getting the messaging, communication and engagement right is just as important as the technology and logistics.

If you would like more information about how DTW can help you to develop a strategic communications campaign, drop us a message at sayhello@dtw.co.uk and one of the team will get back to you.