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Oct 11, 2017

Tackling packaging waste in the domestic sphere using a retailer’s customer loyalty scheme

Dr Ramy Salemdeeb provides an overview of his research, which is being showcased at the 2017 ISWA World Congress in Baltimore (USA) this week.
I still remember the day I first came up with the idea introduced in this blog. It was a sunny Saturday morning at my local retail store and I was packing up my shopping bags. As I headed home towards the exit, the cashier stopped me to hand a receipt and a couple of vouchers which I didn’t check until later that evening. It was only when I sat down with a cup of tea that night that I then checked both vouchers: the first offered me extra points for buying a retailer’s branded porridge, a product I've bought several times in the past, whilst the second promised to triple my points if I bought another of my favourite cooking sauces. In the age of big data, targeted marketing is nothing new, but I hadn't realised until now the extent of influence retailers now have on our personal shopping habits. The experience has also led me to one thought in particular: how could we use targeted marketing to help improve environmental awareness?
Britons produce up to 25 million tonnes of domestic waste each year, of which one third can be categorised as packaging waste. Although we are well aware of the environmental benefits of recycling, vast quantities of waste are still disposed of in landfills due to consistently low recycling rates in our homes. This could be attributed to the transient view of waste in our minds: its disposal and collection seemingly leave us free of any further personal responsibility. We have a tendency to overlook its importance, and ironically, the issue itself ends up thrown out with our rubbish. In order to reverse these attitudes, two vital steps must be taken: the introduction of regular reminders to the public of waste output as a direct result of their daily shopping habits, and the establishment of a sustainable and affordable tool that has the ability to change their habits and encourage a more positive attitude towards waste.
Our proposed idea, presented at the 2017 ISWA World Congress in Baltimore (USA) , introduces a new indicator that reflects packaging waste output from the products purchased in a consumer's regular shopping trip. This metric, printed on the till receipt as shown in the figure below, serves three main functions: (1) to make individuals aware of the exact quantities of packaging used in each of their purchases; (2) to allow retailers to monitor the public's response and enable them to further plan, design and implement interventions to tackle packaging waste output; and (3) to act as an effective tool to study consumer behavioural changes.
In our poster presentation, we introduce the concept, outline the methodology and illustrate its application using a hypothetical case-study in order to show how this approach could be used to trigger behavioural change. This innovative concept tackles the issue of packaging waste in two ways:
1.     It acts as a visual reminder to consumers of their packaging waste output and the potential environmental benefits associated with recycling their purchased items. The box below shows examples of personalised messages which could be sent to customers.
Message 1: The energy saved by recycling the packaging of products you purchased today would equate to 2 hours of powering a 11w lightbulb
Message 2: The energy saved by recycling your favourite juice cartons would equate to 3 hours of extra battery life for your Smartphone.
Message 3: Recycling the aluminium cans you purchased today could generate enough electricity to watch your favourite TV channel for up to 5 hours.
2.     Retailers will gain access to invaluable data to help them understand their customers’ attitudes towards recycling. This data could then be analysed to yield important insights into customer behaviours and preferences, which could then be used as part of further customer reward schemes.
Dr Ramy Salemdeeb would also like to thank Dr Adam Read and Israa Abushaban for contributing to the research.