MetalMatters: Increasing recycling rates through proactive communication

Launch of Metal Matters campaign with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Waste PartnershipAs the circularity of packaging continues to rise up the national agenda, local authorities are looking towards new and innovative ways to drive a measurable uplift in collection volumes, while minimising contamination in kerbside recycling. Advancements in processing and infrastructure are crucial, but equally vital is the role of effective communication and community engagement.

Pioneered by Alupro (the aluminium packaging recycling organisation), MetalMatters is a communications initiative designed to boost household metal packaging recycling rates. Launched in 2012, the programme uses direct communications tactics to improve understanding, secure widespread buy-in and foster positive behavioural change.

The initiative, funded by the metal packaging and recycling industry, can be rolled out in close collaboration with individual local authorities across exacting geographies. It employs a range of communication tools, both traditional and digital, tailored to suit a specific demographic or region. From leaflet drops and impactful outdoor advertising campaigns to vehicle signage, radio broadcasts and even targeted paid social media outreach, MetalMatters adopts a multi-pronged approach to maximise impact.

Over the course of more than a decade, MetalMatters has made a significant impact on metal packaging recycling rates. To date, 126 local authorities and waste partnerships across the UK have partnered with MetalMatters to roll out the campaign within their local community, successfully reaching more than eight million households in total.

One such pioneer is RECAP, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Waste Partnership. Since adopting the MetalMatters programme in May 2023, the team have reported a 14.4 per cent uplift in metal recycling volumes and improvements in quality.

Case study: RECAP

Situated in the East of England and within the historic region of East Anglia, the counties of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough boast diverse landscapes including expansive fenlands, charming cathedral towns and vibrant cities.

In 1999, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Waste Partnership, known as RECAP, was established. This partnership unites seven local authorities: Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Fenland District Council, Huntingdon District Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council and Peterborough City Council under one banner. Together, the vision is to improve waste management practices and promote best practice recycling within the region.

With a budget of £37,600, RECAP launched a MetalMatters programme in May 2023. The initiative was designed to enhance kerbside recycling rates and increase the recovery of metal packaging and other dry recyclables across the seven district councils. To do so, the campaign targeted 372,000 households by harnessing a variety of communications tactics to engage the public and encourage better recycling habits.

Alongside a series of advertisements on buses and local radio stations, a robust social media campaign was implemented, featuring an interactive animated video and a suite of wider graphics. The assets, provided by MetalMatters, aimed to educate residents about which metal packaging items can be recycled through the council's kerbside collections, while also providing easy links to further information on the RECAP website.

Recognising the importance of recycling, the waste partnership also focused on engaging with the next generation. As part of the campaign, TATA Steel – one of the MetalMatters funding partners – hosted a series of recycling workshops in a number of local schools across the region.

Eleanor Shorland of TATA Steel conducting a school workshop for Metal Matters
Eleanor Shorland of TATA Steel conducting a school workshop for Metal Matters

The impact of the campaign was evident within nine months of its launch. Data collected showed a significant increase in metal recycling, with a 14.4 per cent rise in the collections of aluminium cans, iron cans and other metal items. Notably, aluminium cans saw the highest increase at 24 per cent, translating to an additional 280 tonnes expected to be collected annually post-campaign.

In the nine months following the launch, financial analysis indicated that the campaign's payback period would be just over a month. Moreover, the campaign resulted in substantial cost savings and revenue generation. RECAP reported a £58,112 saving in landfill costs, based on an average of £120 per tonne. Additionally, the increased recycling of aluminium and steel added an estimated annual value of £294,629, considering aluminium's value at £800 per tonne and steel at £100 per tonne.

The success of the MetalMatters programme demonstrates the effectiveness of a well-rounded communications strategy that leverages both traditional and digital media channels. By reaching out to residents directly and proactively, the campaign achieved a wide reach, leading to significant environmental and financial benefits.

Become a local authority campaign partner in 2025

By delivering targeted educational materials and clear recycling guidelines, the MetalMatters initiative fosters a greater understanding of the environmental and economic benefits of recycling metal packaging. It underscores the effectiveness of well-crafted, informative campaigns in driving behavioural change and promoting environmental stability.

MetalMatters is now seeking partners for its 2025 campaign schedule. To discover how MetalMatters could be deployed in your area, email [email protected] or visit Or, for more information about Alupro, visit