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  • Writer's pictureJulie de Vaan

"Don't buy Coca-Cola if you don't help us recycle" - An effective recycling campaign

Updated: Jun 16

The Coca-Cola Company



  • Does Coca-Cola effectively promote recycling with its summer campaign?


  • Through campaign analysis, a questionnaire and an experiment, we measure the effectiveness of the campaign and it's effect on recycling motives.


  • The results indicate that the campaign has a positive impact on consumer behavior and on Coca-Cola as a brand. Coca-Cola has successfully utilized its brand power to tap into several important motives to encourage recycling.



With 'This is Forward', Coca-Cola outlines its sustainability plans and ambitions. One of the goals is to have at least 50% of the material used for PET bottles sourced from recycled plastic (rPET) by 2023. However, achieving this goal relies on consumers properly returning their empty or used packaging for recycling. Only through this process can the packaging be effectively recycled.

Coca-Cola aims to leverage the reach of its brands to encourage everyone to recycle. Therefore, in 2019, Coca-Cola's (award-winning) summer campaign, ‘Let’s not waste this summer’ focuses entirely on recycling. But how can Coca-Cola effectively utilize its brand power to change behavior? And what are the effects of this campaign?

Coca-Cola x Changing Ways - Campagne recycling gedragsverandering
With the striking slogan “Don’t buy Coca-Cola if you don’t help us recycle”, Coca-Cola uses its brand power to promote recycling.


Our previous research on waste separation provides insight into the motives of consumers that lead to recycling. Based on that, we assist Coca-Cola in answering the above questions. We examine the campaign's effects on recycling motives through a thorough analysis of various campaign expressions, combined with an experiment and a questionnaire.

In the study, 1,150 Dutch and 800 Belgian participants were exposed to various campaign expressions and answered questions about their motivations for recycling behavior. We also looked at the effects of repeated exposure to the campaign and the effects on Coca-Cola as a brand.

The collected data provide insights into the motives addressed by the campaign and its effectiveness. The results help Coca-Cola enhance the effectiveness of future interventions and further promote recycling behavior using its brand power.


The results of the effect measurement show that the campaign has a positive impact on consumer behavior and on Coca-Cola as a brand in both the Netherlands and Belgium. Increased exposure to the campaign strengthens these effects.

Coca-Cola has successfully used its brand power with the campaign 'Let's not waste this summer' to encourage consumers to recycle. This has contributed to Coca-Cola surpassing its sustainability goals in the Netherlands. Since 2021, all plastic bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic.

Our research shows that with this campaign, Coca-Cola effectively addresses the following motives for waste separation and recycling:

1. Attitude towards Coca-Cola and recycling

After seeing the campaign, consumers have a more positive attitude towards Coca-Cola as a brand and feel that Coca-Cola is committed to recycling. Repeated exposure to the campaign also increases awareness, motivation, and intention to recycle among consumers.

2. Sense of responsibility

The campaign contributes to a stronger sense of responsibility among consumers. They also feel that Coca-Cola takes responsibility for recycling. This shared responsibility between brands and consumers is one of the key motivations for recycling behavior.

3. Social norm

The campaign also raises awareness among consumers that recycling is the norm and that separating waste is important and useful. This form of social influence leads to increased recycling behavior.

4. Clarity about the recycling process

Finally, the campaign improves clarity about the recycling process. Consumers indicate that after seeing the campaign, they better understand how to correctly recycle packaging and the benefits of doing so.

Coca-Cola x Changing Ways - Campaign recycling behavioral change
These are some expressions from the campaign. The advertorial (left) and video (bottom right) are most effective in promoting recycling. The video aligns best with the various important motives.



Based on our knowledge of behavior change and specific sustainability topics such as recycling, we can conduct in-depth research and gain insights relatively quickly. In practice, these insights can help evaluate and refine communication expressions and campaigns. Kirsten van Zandwijk, former Director of Public Affairs, Communications, and Sustainability of Coca-Cola Netherlands, states:

"The value was in the research and how Changing Ways helped make it applicable. You are a great team to work with—no-nonsense, reliable, process-oriented, and precise. Understanding the dynamics of organizations like ours."

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