When an entire village in Ayrshire rallied together to collect plastic bottles and soft drink cans to support their local youth football team, it was more than just an act of community spirit. It showcased the power of community actions and the immense potential they hold as an agent (couldn’t help the football pun) for shaping behaviour. It also highlighted the potential of a Deposit Return Scheme in Scotland
[Not sure of how far reaching my blog would be, the story was recently shared in the Daily Record, but here’s the inside scoop.]
I first met Lynsey and her son, Joey, as we queued at a Sainsbury’s in-store recycling unit. Myself with my bags and bags of Diet Coke bottles and cans (have you read my Metro article?) and Lynsey with her packed trolleys’ (yes, plural) worth.
I was waiting behind their massive haul in visible awe, and I think this prompted Lynsey to turn around and explain just how they had amassed so many bottles and cans.
Discovering that Sainsbury’s would credit 5p for every recycled bottle and can, the players and parents of Hurlford Reds FC decided to team together and drive the 35 minutes from the village of Tarbolton in Ayrshire to Sainsbury’s Darnley to make a deposit and earn the credits. As the credits built up, so did their ambitions and size of their hauls.
Dog walkers collecting in the park, neighbours and friends saving up, and the kids themselves being more mindful to retain the bottles and cans they took to school. Even the local soft play centre, Kidz Play, collected and donated bottles. Over a short period of time, they were able to earn close to £900 in Sainsburys credits. Some were used to buy adidas footballs and shin guards, and being eleven year olds, some were spent on sweets.
A Sustainable Goal
But these kids aren’t just environmentalists, they are also entrepreneurs and they hatched a cunning plan to increase their funds. With spending restricted to Sainsbury’s there were only so many footballs and shin guards they could buy. So, they took advantage of Sainsbury’s sales and toy selection and bought a selection to raffle to friends, family, and classmates. And everyone in their village.
By the time of the prize draw on September 11th 2023, they had raised £700 in raffle ticket sales, bought dog food and dog jackets for the ScottishSPCA, and bought £300 worth of toys to donate to children less fortunate at Christmas. All this from collecting (and not dumping) plastic bottles and cans and enabling them to be recycled.
I’ve been championing the sustainable range at adidas in my Sustainability blogs (I reviewed the adidas Ultraboost trainers a few months ago, which you can read here) as part of the adidas blogger community, and I was so impressed by the team’s efforts that I donated a 2023/2024 Real Madrid football jersey (as chosen by them), made from 100% recycled polyester tricot and 100% recycled polyester mesh, to help with their future fundraising.
Why This Matters
Plastic pollution has become an alarming global crisis, infiltrating various aspects of our daily lives and the environment. It’s not just visible as litter on our streets and beaches; microscopic plastic particles are now found in the air we breathe, the food we consume, and the vast expanse of our oceans. These pollutants not only affect marine life but also make their way up the food chain, ultimately entering our bodies and potentially posing health risks. The far-reaching consequences of plastic waste emphasise the importance of the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Adopting these practices is essential to curbing the menace of plastic pollution, ensuring a healthier environment, and safeguarding the well-being of future generations.
Why I Love This
The act of collecting and redeeming bottles and cans for a monetary value educated and incentivized the players of Hurlford Reds FC about the value of what they might otherwise consider “rubbish”. It showcased that every piece of litter has a tangible value, further strengthening the concept of a deposit return scheme in Scotland.
Beyond the monetary aspect, this activity also served as a means to educate the children, their parents and the entire village that by actively participating in such initiatives, they can make a difference. They will have seen how a world blighted by litter could be transformed with just a bit of effort, making them hopefully less likely to contribute to the problem in the future.
The whole village getting behind them also acted as positive reinforcement. As the community witnessed the youth football team benefiting from their collective effort, it provided a sense of accomplishment to everyone involved. It also confirmed that successful behaviour change campaigns are often community inspired and community led.
And it’s no coincidence that this eco-activity revolved around a football team. Projects like Football Fans in Training have shown how football can inspire change and change lives. By incorporating sport, which naturally fosters teamwork and community spirit, into an eco-friendly initiative, the players will have learned about the value of responsibility, environmental consciousness, and the importance of collective action. And you just thought they were collecting bottles. The journey of taking bottles to Sainsbury’s and turning them into raffle prizes and donations became a lesson in sustainability and the ripple effect of positive actions.
However, like many great stories, there is always heartache to overcome. The Deposit Return Scheme in Scotland has been postponed until 2025 (at the earliest), and subsequently the Scottish Government subsidy that financed Sainsbury’s recycling initiative has come to an end. With no more monetary incentive, how do we ensure that the newly learned behaviours are maintained? How do we encourage these children and their families to continue recycling and even reduce their use of single use plastic?
And like every story, there is a hero who emerges and comes to the rescue. And that hero is me… and you. All of us.
While global weather events, rising temperatures, and increasing levels of plastic pollution reinforce the need for swift and decisive action, I believe that gradualism is key to behaviour change, and that by using gamification and rewards, we can effectively empower behaviour change in a fun and inclusive way. I believe in it so much that I have set up a Community Interest Company, One Sky Collective, to test (and prove) my theory.
Together, we can reduce, reuse, recycle (and repair) and make Scotland the happiest, healthiest and most sustainable wee country in the world while supporting those making a difference.
And it all kicks off in 2024
One Sky Collective
With Tarbolton nestled in South Ayrshire, I have invited the players and parents of Hurlford Reds FC to join me and One Sky Collective on our inaugural beach clean on Troon Beach next year.
We’ll provide them with some commemorative and age-appropriate digital art, an information session on plastic waste and how to reduce and reuse, and some points for future use on One Sky Collective (more on that on another day). What you, if you happen to be a business owner, can do is donate some gifts (the more sustainable the better) to reward and encourage the players to continue recycling and more.
Together we can reinforce that living more sustainably does not only support the youth football team financially, but instills a deeper sense of responsibility and pride in the community. It shows that when a community comes together for a shared cause, they can inspire change, reduce litter, and pave the way for a cleaner, greener future. That is a sustainable goal we can aim for and celebrate.
Will you join us?