At the start of April we set the target of recycling 500,000 coffee cups from the Square Mile of London. It was a leap of faith as nothing on this scale had been previously tested. At the end of the month first indications from our recycling partners are that we have reached the target of 500,000 cups, although the count still has to be independently verified. But this impressive number is only the tip of the iceberg as we throw away 7 million coffee cups a day across the UK. There is a lot more to be done - so what have we learned and what is next for the #SquareMileChallenge?

Where to place recycling bins

The #SquareMileChallenge has demonstrated that involving major employers is the most effective way to recycle a significant number of cups, working with campaign partner Simply Cups. The #SquareMileChallenge acted as a catalyst to get a large number of companies involved by providing momentum and a strong consumer message and roughly three quarters of the cups collected came through this route. In our previous #1MoreShot experiment in Manchester we found that publicly accessible but managed spaces such as libraries, hospitals and universities also collected a high volume of cups with limited contamination.

The seven large, bright yellow coffee cup-shaped recycling bins placed on the streets of the City of London were essential in raising awareness and acted as a hook for press and social media, but are not a long-term solution as they attracted litter and the recycling collected was more contaminated.

Recycling collection points at retail outlets and on street carts have been important to raise profile but they did not collect significant numbers of cups.

Creating a story

It was important to make a strong public announcement that new recycling facilities were available. The #SquareMileChallenge did this by concentrating on a specific geographic area and setting a recycling challenge for one month. This provided a context for campaign allowing us to do a high profile launch including a choir singing coffee-themed songs to Liverpool Street morning commuters and the installation of an eye-catching display. Media coverage included BBC Breakfast, BBC London, BBC Radio London, The Times, Evening Standard, City AM, Time Out and many more.

Social media was used prominently throughout the month backed by short videos to keep the message front of mind and was reinforced by promotional teams working with the biggest employers.

We believe this targeted geographical approach is the best way to extend the campaign to new areas.

Sharing the burden

The cost of the campaign was shared between a range of partners. Businesses covered the cost of collecting coffee cups from their premises. The cost of the bins, promotional campaigns and media were covered by a unique collaboration of retailers and manufacturers.

The local authority enabled bins to be located in prominent positions within the City of London and added collection bins to their street cleaning carts and Network Rail introduced cup recycling facilities at coffee kiosks in major rail stations. This variety of partners ensured that costs were not prohibitive. Most importantly, the initial investment has allowed the infrastructure to be established enabling recycling to continue at relatively low cost in subsequent months and the target is to collect five million cups from the City of London by the end of 2017.

The need for a catalyst

Bringing together all the businesses and public sector organisations required an independent organisation to act as a catalyst. As an environmental charity Hubbub was able to play this role and ensured there was a strong and consistent message across the campaign.

So what next?

#SquareMileChallenge has created a template that can be extended to other areas across the UK. Hubbub will be talking to businesses who supported the campaign seeking their support to enable us to act as the catalyst for future campaigns. If your town or city would like to be considered please get in touch.