The latest research discovered that there’s more microplastic 1000 feet down in the Pacific Ocean than there is in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Let’s zoom in – Romania, 2019. Only 14% of waste is recycled. Authorities are constantly changing the laws and passing on the responsibility, making it almost impossible for collectors to operate. Not recycled waste ends up in landfill, affecting clean waters, kid’s playgrounds, clean landfills for agriculture, beaches, even tap water.
As a retailer, Carrefour has a strong environmental impact – through direct operation and indirect. It must also follow the legislation, which was banning single use plastic. Another change soon to be introduced was the eco-tax for bags. We anticipated that new legislative changes on plastic would gain media attention. So we wondered: how could we take on the public agenda on plastic? And generate a dialogue as well as engagement with our consumers?
We took a closer look at consumers and the problem: plastic. We found out that 45% of what we do is by force of habit. Sports, healthy eating, reading- then why not also recycling? We looked at plastic. Life in plastic is not fantastic. But is life without plastic feasible? We realized plastic is just another resource.
There we go! We launched WE PUT A PRICE ON PLASTIC- a sustainability program taking the guilt and blame off and using instead the power of habits to reduce-reuse-recycle. To bring the platform to life, we decided to make an entertaining, fully pragmatic yet educational statement that plastic does matter, and you can get a benefit out of using and disposing it correctly. How? By introducing a new retail-friendly form of payment – PET Payment! For each PET consumers could choose one fruit or one vegetable, from local Romanian producers. Simple. Fun. Nature-friendly. And like this, a new habit was born. The program was launched with a press conference, announcing the initiatives and launching the two weeks’ PAY WITH PET campaign & another premier in Romania, the refill food container available from now on in all Carrefour stores. What we aimed for and what we achieved?
We wanted awareness- to change the conversation on plastic and to ensure high level commitment. More than 50 online and print media outlets covered the story, and 14 prime time news outlets presented our idea as a solution! The Ministry of Environment was the first to engage and pay with PET. We wanted engagement and we wanted to create habits. More than 4000 customers (our objective: 2000) payed with PET for 2 weeks. We reached 7.5 tons of collected plastic, 200% more than the average monthly quantity in Baneasa! & sold 2 tons of fruits and vegetables! But we also wanted to scale a two-weeks stunt and transform it into a real intervention model. After the campaign, we launched the Green Week initiative- for one-week, online shoppers received a kg of apples, if they returned the plastic bag. Our campaign convinced two collectors to join the initiative and launch the PET PAYMENT in 5 different cities in Romania! A local city hall also jumped in!
We used an apparently unfavorable legislative context and an apparently busy agenda- governments, world NGOs, businesses, media- to our best moment for introducing what seemed to be just another plastic reduction program. However, the simple idea that PET=resource changed the conversation and served as an opening for media introducing new legislative changing. Our program was offered as a positive & unexpected way to solve such a heavy debate.