A lot changes in 10 years…

When the Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association (CBCRA) was founded in 2010, their mandate was straightforward: encourage Manitobans to recycle all their empty beverage containers. But recycling itself was becoming more complex. International regulations were being imposed that forced recycling processors to be stricter about what they could and could not accept at their depots.

At the centre of this complexity was the notion of contamination: the introduction of non-recyclable material into recycling bins. Too much of any kind of contamination (food waste, residue or non-recyclable material) meant entire batches of recycling were being diverted to the landfill instead of being recycled. CBCRA had already provided some clarity around the issue in targeted micro campaigns, but as media coverage of the issue and its impacts increased, contamination needed to take a more prominent role in campaign communications.

Based on consumer research, public opinion was also being negatively impacted by so much transition and complexity. More than half of respondents expressed increased confusion compared to the previous year, with most citing that the ‘rules have changed’ or that they didn’t ‘know what is recyclable’ as reasons for their uncertainty. Our challenge was to provide them with clear direction and a strong call to action (CTA).


What they told us: Keep it simple.

Intentionally or otherwise, many recycling agencies had previously encouraged people to err on the side of caution — with a subtext of, If you’re not sure, recycle it anyway. But in fact the opposite was true. To ensure that all materials that were meant to be recycled, get recycled, people needed to be more diligent about ensuring beverage containers were empty and reasonably clean, and that no non-recyclable material made its way into recycling bins.

As new regulations drove this call for more diligence, CBCRA supported the public with information and resources on their website. But to be effective at keeping the behaviour top-of-mind, the campaign needed to remain higher-level. Even as the recycling process became increasingly complex, the CBCRA challenged McKim to keep it direct and simple: To engage, and not confuse, recyclers.

We also needed a breakthrough creative platform that made this idea resonate across multiple demographics. To reach and maintain approximately 70% recycling recovery in the market, we’d recently strategically stratified our message to address different demographics, and their respective motivations. But contamination affected the whole audience, and required a united campaign message.


What we saw: Where there’s a wrong, there’s a right.

We knew from consumer research for previous Recycle Everywhere campaigns (especially our first) that people were more likely to recycle when they understood the implications of the behaviour. The same logic held for being more diligent about recycling. Instead of providing instructions (do this, not that), we needed to speak to the value of recycling the right materials — the right way. Research indicated this approach gave us a better chance of impacting consumer behaviour and getting them to think twice about proper recycling habits.

Recycle The Right Stuff.

The resulting creative platform was rooted in the idea that empty beverage containers — aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles, drink boxes and cartons — remained the right items to recycle. And recycling these items was still a desirable act worth celebrating.

This led us to envision our recyclables as heroes. And heroes only become heroes by emerging victorious from dangerous situations: in this case, contamination. To convey this, the landfill represented the peril that our heroes were trying to avoid.

This notion gave way to an exciting storytelling platform: The Right Stuff. We cast our container types as anthropomorphic characters and created a series of integrated campaign assets that followed their ongoing mission to avoid the landfill — an imposing villainous character. Each story reinforced that our heroes’ hopes were in the audience’s hands: Only you can keep them out of the landfill by recycling the right stuff.


Despite being faced with an increase in the number of beverage containers sold in Manitoba (the baseline against which recovery rates are measured), CBCRA has maintained a recovery rate near or at 70% for three consecutive years (2016-2018).

These results continue to be remarkable in a jurisdiction where a container recycling fee (CRF) is charged with each sale as opposed to a deposit system. In other words, in a province where people receive no money back for recycling their beverage containers, CBCRA’s recovery results have continued to hold steady.

68-70% recovery0

for 3+ consecutive years