In 2008, ERP Portugal launched the “Generation Depositrão” programme, in a partnership with the European Blue Flag Association/Eco-Schools Program, the largest global project for sustainable schools.
The goal was to create a new “generation of recyclers”. The nationwide programme, which promotes the collection of batteries and electronic waste, and offers creative activities, was designed for all children from kindergarten to university students. At a very young age, the programme teaches children about the importance of recycling and how we can contribute, so that they become environmentally-aware adults themselves, and spread the message in their families and, then, their communities.
Ana Alves, the eco-school coordinator at the Loução-Venade primary school says: ’Our mission is to motivate children and students. We need to change attitudes and promote daily healthy behaviour as individuals, families, and communities. By encouraging people to take part in the Depositrão Generation programme, we actively involve young people, as well as their families, schools, and local communities, and turn the schools into epicentres for generating information and behaviour change. We make people aware of the importance of recycling WEEE and used batteries, and preventing waste. But, most of all, we promote interaction between the generations and call on everyone to work together.’
ERP Portugal’s consumer awareness raising initiative supports the stricter recycling regulations that the Portuguese government has introduced in recent years and helps the country to meet increasing recycling rates. According to the State of the Environment Portal Portugal, 75% of electronic devices were recycled and reused in 2017. Considering the fact that this number was at a mere 21.8% in 2008, Portugal has taken a great leap forward. Since recycling starts with every individual household, ERP’s programme focuses on exactly the right target group: the next generation.
Each year, on average, 700 schools, universities and companies/organisations take part in the Depositrão Generation programme. To motivate pupils and students throughout the entire school/academic year, and to encourage the regular habit of dropping off waste in the right places (at schools or at the partner organisations), the program has two collection phases. Awards and prizes are assigned at the end of both phases, but the amount of prize money depends on the school’s performance in each phase. Schools that collect during one of the phases receive 50 euros per tonne; schools that collect in both phases receive 100 euros per tonne.
To adopt a broader educational approach, ERP Portugal decided to include creative activities in the programme. In a fun and playful way, the students and their teachers learn how they can give waste a new value. For example, children can build their own collection containers made of re-usable and recyclable material. Together with their teachers, younger children also create photo frames, using electronic waste that they collect at home. To strengthen the idea of a “new generation of recyclers”, middle-school pupils are asked to find out what people know about recycling and to explain how they can do more. Some pupils even create podcasts discussing environmental topics!
At the end of the year, the schools which have collected the most electronic waste and used batteries (by weight) receive prizes from the four programme sponsors: Orima, LG, Pingo Doce and Worten. ERP Portugal manages the extended producer responsibility (EPR) obligations for these four companies. Awards are also given for the most creative collection container and other challenges.
For Filipa Moita, PR Manager at ERP Portugal, ‘It gives us great satisfaction to witness the change of behaviour at schools, where the collection of waste is now part of pupils’ daily lives and the whole community has really got behind this programme. Depositrão Generation is still going strong and will continue to set the agenda for all school levels, from kindergartens to Universities, encouraging the school community to collect WEEE and used batteries and to participate in creative challenges to learn more about this subject. The campaign is also a success outside the schools’ borders as it involves local companies and organisations and is widely promoted in the regional and national media.’ With more than 3,000 tonnes of electronic waste collected since 2008, and over 800 awards presented to a new generation of recyclers, ERP Portugal’s approach to raising consumer awareness has proven to be a big success.