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In the U.K., a creative recycling project finds success and expansion

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The Leeds by Example recycling campaign has recycled 600,000 cups and seen the number of people recycling plastic, cans and coffee cups double in the six months since it launched in the city, environmental charity Hubbub announced last week.

In light of the initiative's success, the model will be rolled out in Swansea and Edinburgh later this year, with a view to creating a replicable model for other cities to follow. It also will continue for a further six months in Leeds City Centre.

Coordinated by Hubbub and recycling provider Ecosurety, Leeds By Example is a collaborative effort bringing together 25 national partners who are funding the scheme alongside Leeds City Council and other local partners who are delivering new recycling collection infrastructure.

Together, the coalition installed 124 new recycling points around the city center, which previously lacked any on-the-go recycling facilities.

The project included not only on-street recycling bins, but also recycle reward machines offering money-off vouchers in return for recycling, and recycling points within shops and workplaces.

The first results of the trial show that the proportion of people disposing of plastic, cans and coffee cups in a recycling bin almost doubled from 17 percent to 32 percent. A total of 65,000 cans and 55,000 bottles were recycled since the initiative launched in October.

The campaign used imaginative twists to catch the public's attention, with brightly colored bins, bins that "burp," bins that blow bubbles and a giant coffee cup installation.

An evaluation found the public responded positively to these fun and interactive elements. It also concluded people were more likely to use a recycling bin when it is visible from afar. And the research revealed the quality of on-street recycling is higher where people have more time to loiter, such as at bus stops.

Polling found that 82 percent of the public in Leeds City Centre were aware of the campaign.

The Recycling on the Go initiative will be available in Swansea and Edinburgh from September.

"When it comes to recycling the packaging we all use, too often the onus is on local authorities to tackle this issue alone," said Gavin Ellis, co-founder and director of Hubbub. "The success of Leeds By Example shows what can be achieved when partners work together to share expertise, grab public attention and change behavior.

"Lack of infrastructure and unclear messaging is a major barrier to recycling in the U.K., and results from our trial have shown the importance of new recycling bins supported by a clear, concise call to action."

Leeds By Example is backed by Alupro, Asda, Association of Convenience Stores, Ball Beverage Packaging Europe, British Plastics Federation, Bunzl, Caffè Nero, Coca-Cola GB, Costa Coffee, Co-op, Crown Packaging, Danone, Ecosurety, Greggs, Highland Spring, Innocent, Klöckner Pentaplast (kp), Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Marks and Spencer, McDonald's UK, Morrisons, PepsiCo UK, Pret A Manger, Starbucks and Shell.  

The news comes as the government continues to work on wide-ranging plans to boost recycling rates, including proposals for a new plastic tax and a national deposit return scheme.

However, some industry groups are understood to be pushing back against the proposals, with the Guardian reporting last week that the British Plastics Federation is lobbying against plans to tax plastic packaging that does not contain a minimum level of recycled materials.

Some industry groups also criticized plans from the Scottish government last week, which confirmed it will introduce its own deposit return scheme.

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