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Urban Participation and Focus on Reusing Waste and Recycling Development of Communications

Reference: LIFE11 ENV/UK/000389 | Acronym: UP&FORWARD COMS



In moving towards a European society based on the principles of waste prevention, reuse and recycling, a two-pronged approach is required. The first is to provide EU citizens with the necessary services, infrastructure, products and knowledge. The second is to engage EU citizens to make changes to their lifestyles that will reduce consumption, and to encourage them to sort waste for reuse and recycling. To achieve these goals, public participation is key to both implementing and driving forward the principles of the waste hierarchy. However, public participation varies greatly on a geographical basis, with huge variations in recycling levels across Europe and large variations within countries. In the UK, areas characterised by high-to-middle income and low-density housing are currently achieving high levels of recycling (up to 70%), whereas densely-populated urban areas are achieving much lower levels. Approximately 50% of the EU’s population lives in densely populated areas (Eurostat, 2010), so engaging with these citizens is vital for the implementation of the principles of the waste hierarchy.


The objective of the UP&FORWARD COMS project was to demonstrate how waste policy can be more effectively implemented by municipalities, using targeted communications in low-performing areas, as identified by waste collection data and local demographic statistics, to change behaviour. The project aimed to help the EU understand how to evaluate, monitor and develop policies that can be delivered with the active participation of the public. Specifically, the project aimed to demonstrate the innovative use of communications media and processes to increase participation in waste prevention and recycling in deprived urban areas; in communities with a high proportion of youth, transient and student residents; in communities with a high proportion of people from different cultures; and people living in apartment blocks. Communication campaigns were planned to target some 66 000 households in the Greater Manchester area.


The UP&FORWARD COMS project delivered 42 targeted community-led communication campaigns to promote recycling to over 63 000 residents in areas of Greater Manchester with low recycling performance. The project recruited and trained volunteers, and worked with students and community groups from across Greater Manchester. As a direct result of this, the Recycle for Greater Manchester Annual Action Plan 2015-2016 incorporated the project’s approach for an initial one year period.

The beneficiary (GMWDA) delivering its 42 communication campaigns using 12 different actions and 4 themes, enabling the approaches developed to be tested in multiple locations. The 12 actions involved different target groups and adopted different approaches in low-performing areas with a high level of deprivation; low-performing areas with a high level of transience, youth and students; low-performing areas with a high level of different cultures/faiths; and low-performing areas with high-density housing (apartment blocks).

The project disseminated useful lessons on both the implementation and monitoring of community-led campaigns to promote recycling to stakeholders across the UK and the EU, through a series of thematic and case studies, a handbook, and two seminars. This has generated significant interest in the approach. The majority of large cities and urban conurbations across the EU have deprived areas, increasingly diverse and transient populations, and high-rise/high-density housing, so the opportunities to replicate the project’s community-engagement approach across different settings within the EU are abundant. However, the degree to which the approach is transferable will depend on local conditions.

The project actively engaged with a diverse range of people. Events held by the project helped to bring residents together to promote environmental issues and community cohesion. Communities have been involved through focus groups and volunteering opportunities, for example, the training of 183 ‘recycling ambassadors’. Relationships with 120 community groups and other partner organisations were created and the project has fostered networking between neighbourhoods and local organisations in a number of instances. The project had direct environmental benefits, for example, through its ‘Big Tidy Up’ campaign (at Cheetham Hill) and other waste collection events. In one of its 12 actions, 2.2 tonnes of waste were collected for reuse from students. The project demonstrated its relevance to a number of policy areas, including the 7th EAP second priority area (resource efficiency), and in particular the Waste Framework Directive and Circular Economy Package. With a legal obligation for authorities to reach 50% recycling of municipal waste by 2020 (and 65% by 2030), the project has demonstrated a new approach to tackling the lowest performing urban areas. By tackling recycling levels in the hardest to reach and most deprived areas, and across ethnic communities, the project has helped to strengthen the equality of service delivery.

At the peak of delivery, the project created 14 new jobs, many of which were for new graduates, and provided 16 students with training opportunities, many of whom would not have traditionally engaged in environmental issues. With public sector and local authority budget cuts, the UP&FORWARD approach could be utilised as a way of reducing waste management costs (including landfill tax) and generating income from increasing recycling revenues; though this is dependent on the likely return on investment compared to other communication methods and technological solutions. With 5-10 jobs per 1 000 tonnes of materials recycled, compared to 0.1 jobs for the equivalent waste being sent to landfill, the approach is conducive to supporting the transition to a circular economy.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Reference: LIFE11 ENV/UK/000389
Start Date: 01/08/2012
End Date: 30/06/2015
Total Budget: 1,402,470 €
EU Contribution: 685,232 €
Project Location:


Coordinating Beneficiary: Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority
Legal Status: PAT
Address: 5 Barn Street, OL1 1LP, Oldham, United Kingdom
Contact Person:

LIFE Project Map



  • Awareness raising - Information
  • Municipal waste (including household and commercial)


  • waste management
  • domestic waste
  • urban area
  • social participation
  • underprivileged people
  • environmentally responsible behaviour


  • COM(2014)398 - "Towards a circular economy: a zero waste programme for Europe" (02.07.2014)
  • Directive 2008/98 - Waste and repealing certain Directives (Waste Framework Directive) (19.11.2008)


Name Type
Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority Coordinator
Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom Participant