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3. Public Education Materials and Strategies

3 Public Education Materials and Strategies

  • Insights from our current research on BC residents’ recycling attitudes and behaviours.
  • Review of advertising and marketing activities conducted to increase recovery rates.
  • Overview of community-based programs and initiatives to encourage additional beverage container recycling.

3.1 Research and Segmentation Analysis

Since 1999, Encorp Pacific has undertaken market research on an annual basis to evaluate program knowledge, assess consumer behaviour and measure levels of brand equity for Encorp and Return-It across the province.

Research results are used to track changes over time as well as to provide information that is required by the provincial government. One of the most critical pieces of understanding is to determine how to further reduce the level of throw-away behaviour (approximately 25% of beverage containers are known to not be recycled in BC).

An online survey was undertaken in September 2021 among adults 18+ in BC. We achieved a 99% awareness level for all container types that can be returned to a depot for deposit, and a 97% awareness level for all non-alcohol beverage container types that can be returned to a depot for deposit.

When respondents were asked if they were aware of Encorp Pacific (Canada)/Return-It, levels remained consistent with those of past years.

Net Awareness Chart

In 2020, a fresh approach to the segmentation analysis was undertaken, including behavioural variables as well as attitudinal ones.

Based on the new approach, five segments were identified: Regular Returners, Depot Fans, Convenience Trashers, On-the-Go Discarders and Uninformed Urbans.

Each segment was analyzed through the following criteria:

Segment sizing: comparing percentage of people in the segment, containers produced and containers thrown away.

Key demographics: age, gender, lifestyle, occupation and income along with other demographics were considered.

Depot use: motivations/barriers for visiting a depot, and visit frequency.

Express: awareness of the service, current use and future use potential.

Why they discard: reasons why this portion of the public does not recycle their beverage containers.

Slide the table left and right. (Scroll bar is below table.)
Regular-Returners Depot-Fans Convenience-Trashers On-the-Go-Discarders Uninformed-Urbans
Segment sizing

44% people

16% containers produced

2% containers discarded

22% people

48% containers produced

4% containers discarded

7% people

16% containers produced

71% containers discarded

15% people

17% containers produced

12% containers discarded

12% people

3% containers produced

11% containers discarded

Key Demographics

Average age 54

63% female

Average age 50

Equally male and female

18–34 age

54% male

25–44 age

57% female

Both young and old

Equally male and female

Depot Use

Just below average use

Like the one-stop convenience of depots

Frequent users

Love to use the depots

Good level of use, and frequent among those who do

Like the convenience, especially depots with Express

Average use

Average reasons for using the depots

Low use; they prefer retailers as method for return

Lack of nearby locations and convenience are barriers to more use


Below-average awareness, current use and future interest

Above-average use but only average current and future interest

Average awareness, high current and future use

Below-average awareness, average current use but above-average future interest

Below-average awareness, current use and future interest

Reasons for discarding

Rarely discard

Confusion on what is returnable

Rarely discard

Confusion on what is returnable

Hassle and inconvenience are key reasons

Can’t find a place to return it while they are “on the go”

Lack of interest in the return system

The annual benchmark and segmentation studies help us understand throw-away behaviour in as much depth as possible. While we have seen significant success in reducing the number of beverage containers that end up in the landfill, about 25% are still not recycled. We continue to work hard to target and modify throw-away behaviour.

Within our benchmark and segmentation study we included questions based on discard location, beverage container type and visit frequency.

This year we also wanted to know the awareness level of Return-It Express, how Return-It Express has impacted consumers behaviour and whether consumers were satisfied with the service. When respondents were asked how satisfied they were with the Express service, 93% rated the service as excellent/good.

Segmentation Study Chart

3.2 Consumer Awareness

We continued to remind consumers in 2021 that recycling their beverage containers isn’t just the right thing to do – in BC, it’s just what we do. Our advertisements were promoted on various social media, traditional media such as radio and print ads, and many more. This helped maintain a 99% program awareness. We continued to expand on the Return-It Gang’s personality while emphasizing the importance of recycling in British Columbia.

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TV & Radio/Spotify


We use television to reach a broad mass audience across the province and to maintain a strong level of awareness with consumers. Our 15-second TV spots let viewers know that in BC, recycling is “just what we do.” Our Express-specific TV spots are a great way to explain and promote the benefits of Return-It Express.

See more current spots


As consumer media habits continue to change, we’re always reviewing and evaluating the best way to reach our target consumers. The music streaming service Spotify was identified as a new way to reach one of our specific target audiences. Listen to our radio and Spotify spots at

Consumer Brochures

Previously, we printed detailed consumer brochures in English, Hangul, Punjabi and Traditional Chinese. In 2021, we posted all our printed brochures on our website, reducing the amount of paper used to print brochures. British Columbians can find these brochures at Return-It depots by scanning a QR code. Brochures are also available for download on our website at

Consumer Brochures
Special Coverage

Every time we have relevant community information worth sharing, it is distributed to the public through various platforms. The information is posted to the Encorp website, shared through our social media channels, and sent out to stewards and influencers to help spread the word.

Special Coverage and Return-It Blog

Our website and blog give consumers a quick and convenient place to find important information such as depot locations and the latest recycling news. Visit: and Return-It Blog
Corporate Videos

Our corporate videos outline the recycling process for several beverage container types, and they are frequently promoted on our social media channels as well as being available for viewing on the Return-It YouTube channel. These videos are used to further educate consumers about what happens to their drink containers after they are collected for recycling.

See more corporate videos
Special Focus: Underperforming Containers


With awareness of and concern for plastic pollution on the rise globally, an awareness and education plan was set in motion, including radio tags with a plastic beverage container focus, educational social media posts, geotargeted social media ads and digital ads reminding consumers to recycle their plastic beverage containers while they are out and about. We launched a new plastic-focused video, “The Secret Lives of a Plastic Beverage Container.” The video was shared on social media, pre-roll and TV during Global’s morning news. A myth-busting social media campaign was planned using GIFs and snippets from the new video.

Two of our recognizable “Return-It Gang” characters are plastic bottles: Walter Bottel and Pete Bottel. We made sure Walter and Pete were featured in new Return-It Gang creative imagery for social media to remind consumers about recycling their plastic beverage containers around key dates throughout the year. We also began working on a new, reimagined plastics recycling process video, which is set to be released in early 2021.


Drink pouches are the least recycled container type, as many consumers do not know that these container types are part of the deposit system. To raise consumer awareness, we leveraged the popularity of the Return-It Gang and introduced a new drink pouch character, Juicenda Pouch. Pouches were prominently featured during key times in our advertising plan to raise awareness. The immediacy of social media allowed for quick, targeted posts to be implemented for these underperforming containers.


The public awareness level for bag-in-a-box is below our target, as many consumers do not know that this container type is part of the deposit system, and they do not know how to recycle this container type. A new Return-It Gang character named Sarah Cask was created. In addition, a new video was produced with two key messaging: bag-in-a-box is part of the Return-It system, and remember to return both your bag and the box for recycling.

Sarah Cask Bag-In-A-Box
See more informational videos
Annual Report

Our comprehensive and interactive Annual Report can be found on our website. Visitors can view the Annual Report on our website or by downloading a PDF version of the report.

Annual Report
Social Media & Google Ads

We continue to use social media as support for our outreach programs and to raise awareness about the recycling of specific containers. The Return-It Gang puppets provide a voice and personality that are well suited to social media, allowing us to engage our audience in a lighthearted, slightly “cheeky” tone. We included posts utilizing pop culture references, current events and special holidays in our social media plan to engage with consumers in the social space.

Social Media

Google Ads

Google provides a grant to non-profit organizations for their text-based search advertising. We have utilized this offer to show our audience search ads while they are inquiring online. If someone is searching how to recycle their beverage containers, we’ll reach them!

Customer Relations

Providing a positive customer experience is a top priority at Return-It. Customers are the foundation of all businesses, and offering an exceptional customer experience is key for the sustained growth of any business – and, in our case, essential for driving recovery rates.

Given the importance of the customer experience, we have a dedicated Customer Relations Team in place to manage all customer questions, concerns and feedback. This team is key to maintaining a continuous focus on the customer experience and to identifying solutions and opportunities for improvement. The team has a set of robust processes to educate and manage all customer and public-facing inquiries. In 2021 we supported more than 17,700 customers. As part of our efforts to reduce inquiry volume, we review customer intel on an ongoing basis and suggest enhancements to our system. Actions achieved in 2021 include the following:

  • Created 12 monthly customer trend dashboards, four quarterly reports and 52 weekly reports
  • Held 12 cross-departmental customer-focused team meetings
  • Improved customers’ ability to find information themselves by updating our website content and layout, distributing quarterly customer newsletters, and launching a knowledge centre (an online portal that includes answers to frequently asked questions, how-to guides and troubleshooting instructions) and a live chat widget
  • Provided the operations team with real-time data on every location
  • Enhanced the Express site through quarterly IT updates to improve usability and reduce pain points
  • Provided customer service training to the depot operators at the April 2021 depot conference and a training workshop for the Customer Relations Team
Customer Relations

3.3 Recycling Programs and Initiatives

Over 1 billion containers were kept out of landfills in the past year. The majority of beverage containers sold in BC were recovered and recycled through the Return-It depot network, Return-It Express and Return-It Express & GO locations across the province. Many initiatives and annual specialty programs were part of an ongoing effort to increase the recovery and recycling of beverage containers.

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Return-It Express

Ease and convenience continue to be two of the biggest barriers to getting consumers to recycle their beverage containers; the Return-It Express program addresses both. Last year, we increased the number of Return-It Express depot locations to 78 across BC. Customers simply set up an online account at, place their empty beverage containers into transparent bags and take them to a Return-It Express depot. Once there, using the touch-screen terminal provided, a customer enters their phone number to log in, prints off labels to attach to their bags, and drops them in the designated area. The empty containers are then sorted and counted for the customer. The refund on deposit is credited to their online account and can be redeemed for a cheque or Interac e-transfer. Return-It Express continues to grow, with more locations available and consistent marketing efforts to promote the ease and convenience of the system. In 2021 there were 190,494 Express users registered.

Return-It Express
Express Campaign

Our 2021 Express campaign focused on increasing awareness of the ease and convenience of using Return-It Express: no sorting, no lineups and no handling cash. In addition to mass media tactics, more targeted tactics were utilized throughout the campaign. With the proven success of direct mail in previous years, households around Express locations in the Lower Mainland received an informative Express direct mail brochure. Social media was also used to target specific communities and neighbourhoods. For each of our new Express locations, a 3-kilometre radius was used to target new Express customers through social media posts. Influencers such as Daily Hive and radio hosts from Z95.3, CFOX and Rock 101 played a key role in our campaign.

Express Campaign
Express Plush Promotion

Since the introduction of the Return-It Gang back in 2011, there have been many requests for plush toys to be made for each of the lovable characters. In 2019, the Return-It Gang plush promotion was launched. For every beverage container returned, Express customers received one plush promotion credit. Credits would then be used towards redeeming one plush Return-It Gang character. The original promotion ended in October 2020. However, by popular demand it was reintroduced in July 2021. Last year more than 5,200 Return-It Gang were characters sent to Express users.

Express Plush Promotion
Express Bag Label

In 2020, as an additional safety measure during the COVID-19 pandemic, we began sending Express customers their Express bag labels through the mail at no charge when requested through their online Express account. The Express bag label request feature ended in September 2021 with over 86,000 bag label packs sent to Express users.

Express Bag Label
Express Direct Mail

As part of a continued effort to spread awareness of the Return-It Express program as it expands across the province, brochures were sent to all residences within 3 kilometres of an Express location. Direct mail campaigns are always a success, consistently resulting in a spike in new Express users. In 2021, over 500,000 unique BC residences received an informative brochure about the Express system, letting them know that the convenient service is available in their community.

Direct Mail Direct Mail
Return-It School

Since 2000, elementary and high schools across BC have had the opportunity to promote recycling and environmental stewardship via our school program, Return-It School. As part of the program, schools get to share their recycling stories in a contest format, in hopes of winning the grand prize of $5,000 or the secondary prize of $2,500.

The winners of the 2021 Return-It School contest were Forest Grove Elementary School, located in a small community in the South Cariboo region, and Lake City Secondary School in Williams Lake.

Return-It School
Ambassador Team

Our Recycling 101 Ambassadors are a team of super-smart “recycling scientists” who use their expert knowledge to teach kids and parents the basic “101” of recycling. In 2021, some events remained cancelled as a result of COVID-19- related restrictions. However, the Recycling 101 Ambassadors were still able to attend seven high- profile events in Vancouver, reminding BC residents to recycle their drink containers and promoting our Return-It Express system. We also launched our brand new Return-It set-up and our new contactless Return-It Express game. The new game challenges visitors to sort containers by holding their hands on top of the sensors of each container type column as fast as they can. At the end, we compare their time against the fastest time of the day.

Ambassador Team
B.C. Parks & Municipal Outdoor Spaces

Provincial parks, protected areas and recreation areas attracting large amounts of pedestrian traffic continued to be our focus during 2021. We have worked closely with BC Parks to ensure that the investment we put into new outdoor bins pairs with the high-traffic locations where beverage containers have been traditionally trashed.

Throughout 2021, we delivered even more bins to the parks located in British Columbia, including the first hands-free, pedal-operated, bear-proof bins and dual bins to help keep public spaces clean and eliminate excess litter. As a result, pedestrians were able to use new recycling bins in more provincial parks and rural areas where recycling is not accessible.

Return-It has also partnered with BC Parks to create a map showing all bins’ locations. The map includes all the bins ordered and placed since the start of the partnership and gives an interactive overview of where they can be found.

We are proud to be working with BC Park, and we are looking forward to helping our partner supply pedestrians with more convenient recycling in the years to come.

B.C. Parks and Municipal Outdoor Spaces
Sports Team Partnerships

2021 marked the return of in-person events for both Vancouver Canucks and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. These partnerships have been beneficial on a variety of fronts: ensuring the proper beverage recycling bins at each venue, expanding our outreach program to new audiences and deepening the connection with our customers and community. Vancouver Whitecaps fans attending in-person games were able to enjoy the pre-game activation at Terry Fox Plaza and play our soccer-themed Express game. Additionally, esports have become an essential part of our sports partnerships, allowing us to connect with a different demographic to deliver our message. Return-It has partnered with Vancouver Titans, a professional Overwatch esports team based in Vancouver, BC, and The Gaming Stadium, the first esports stadium in Canada.

Sports Team Partnerships Sports Team Partnerships Sports Team Partnerships
Independent Return-It Depots Marketing and Promotion Commitments

Return-It depots submit their intended Marketing & Promotional Plans to Encorp. In 2021 the combined investments from participating depots, if fulfilled, would add approximately $1.4 million in additional advertising spending.

Independent Return-It Depots Marketing and Promotion Commitments
Industrial, Commercial & Institutional Sector

The Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) sector is another area of interest for Encorp, as large- scale venues can account for a significant number of unredeemed beverage containers. We’ve partnered with organizations like the Sea to Sky Gondola, Nat Bailey Stadium, the Pacific National Exhibition, Cypress Mountain Resort and Mt. Seymour Ski Resort to either provide or improve upon their existing recycling programs. Partnerships within the institutional sector include the provision of collection bins and services at two major hospitals: Vancouver General and Lions Gate Hospital.

Industrial, Commercial & Institutional Sector (IC&I)
Stewardship Agencies of BC (SABC)

Encorp Pacific (Canada) is a founding member of SABC. We have led the way in the development of a group website, video profile and handbook aimed at consumers. Those who are looking to recycle additional materials outside of beverage containers are encouraged to visit

Stewardship Agencies of BC (SABC)
Major Media Partnerships

To help raise awareness of the important work Encorp is doing, we partnered with Corus Entertainment and Bell Media to leverage their broadcast media. Corus and Bell have some of the strongest news properties in BC and offer full provincial reach. By partnering with Corus and Bell, we’re able to leverage the credibility of a third party to help us deliver our message. Krissy Vann, a well-known television broadcaster, was featured throughout our messaging. President and CEO Allen Langdon provided expertise on the importance of recycling beverage containers and diverting them from our natural environment. The segment opened an avenue where we were able to talk to the public about the ease and convenience of our Express & GO stations, our new Express Plus flagship location and how it contributes to British Columbia’s beverage container recycling system – ensuring future generations can enjoy a greener, healthier province.

Believe BC

Return-It continues to lead the way with new ideas and innovation, making it more convenient for BC residents to recycle. In 2020, Return-It rolled out a series of initiatives to modernize the beverage container recycling system. Believe BC gave our president and CEO, Allen Langdon, the opportunity to let BC residents know about all the initiatives and what we imagine the future of beverage container recycling will look like.

Believe BC
CTV Morning Live Community Host Segments

Krissy Vann, Community Connection host for CTV Morning Live, set out to talk to Express & GO users to find out what they thought about the system. These conversations reinforced the importance of ease and convenience for BC residents when recycling their beverage containers and how Express & GO had impacted their recycling habits.

Radio Show and Podcast Interviews

To expand the partnership with Corus and reach different audiences on CKNW, Allen Langdon talked to Martin Strong on the Vancouver Consumer show during World Ocean Day about what happens to plastic beverage containers in BC and why it’s so important to recycle all beverage containers. The interview was teased through social media and later shared once it aired. To further amplify our message and reach different audiences, Vanessa Newman from Z95.3 visited one of our Express & GO stations and talked about her experience. The visit was shared through the station’s social media channels and then hosted on the Z95.3 website.

Waste Reduction Week

Waste Reduction Week continues to build in awareness and understanding year after year. To help support this year’s Waste Reduction Week, we aligned our media partnership with Corus and Bell. The Believe BC segment ran on different Corus news programming, and our new Express Plus location was highlighted on CTV Morning Live, where Krissy Vann talked with our president and CEO, Allen Langdon, about how this new location adds to the series of initiatives to modernize the beverage container recycling system. Social media was once again leveraged during the week to engage directly with our customers and promote behaviour that will divert beverage containers from landfills.

Waste Reduction Week
Ocean Ambassadors

Ocean Ambassadors Canada offers educational programs and community initiatives, bringing people to the ocean, educating them about the threat of marine pollution, and empowering them to make real change. Return-It has partnered with Ocean Ambassadors Canada to give access to educational programs to vulnerable children and youth in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island.

Ocean Ambassadors
First Nations

Recognizing that it is not always economically viable to have traditional depot-style coverage in all of the hard-to-service, remote and rural areas of the province, and to further improve accessibility, Encorp continues to work collaboratively with other stewardship programs to improve coverage and consumer convenience. For example, Encorp is one of the major financial contributors of the BC First Nations Recycling Initiative, working with nine other stewardship agencies that have come together to create a project specifically relevant to Indigenous communities that are interested in starting recycling programs. In support of this initiative, Encorp provides financial contributions and helps develop collaborative solutions. When a First Nations area has been identified and requires additional assistance with the recycling and payment of deposit refunds for beverage containers within our system, Encorp will work with the community to develop a solution.

First Nations
Closing the Loop Podcast

In 2019, Return-It launched its new podcast series, Closing the Loop: A Conversation About Recycling, Sustainability and the Circular Economy. Podcasts provide consumers with on-demand, high-quality content that they can listen to whenever and wherever it’s convenient. The new podcast series provides an ideal outlet for thought leadership as president and CEO, Allen Langdon, speaks with industry leaders around the globe to bring awareness to environmental challenges and innovations. In 2021, we recorded 10 episodes on topics ranging from sustainability in the fashion industry to how technology can help solve our waste challenges to the circularity of chopsticks. Listeners can find the podcast on all major streaming platforms. Listen to the latest episodes here:

Closing the Loop Podcast
Diving In: The Art of Cleaning Lakes and Oceans

In 2021, Return-It sponsored Diving In: The Art of Cleaning Lakes and Oceans. This environmental art campaign, a collaboration by the Sea to Sky Arts Council Alliance and the arts councils of West and North Vancouver, aimed to raise awareness about the waste found within local waterways. Through organized cleanups, waste material would be collected and transformed by local artists into meaningful artwork. On World Cleanup Day, September 18, 2021, Return-It participated in its first waterway cleanup with Diving In in North Vancouver’s Shipyard District. Return-It was involved in eight waterway cleanup in 2021, where approximately 960 beverage containers were collected. The artwork is scheduled to debut and tour later this year, and the movement of this mission will continue into 2022.

Diving In: The Art of Cleaning Lakes and Oceans
Cork Recycling Pilot

In 2021, Return-It began a new project to ensure that every part of wine bottles are recycled by recycling used natural wine corks, collected at the Return-It Boucherie Self Storage and Bottle Depot in Kelowna, and turning them into eco- friendly footwear. The new initiative is a strategic partnership between Return-It; ReCORK, North America’s largest natural wine cork recycling program; and SOLE, a manufacturer of sustainable footwear that turns used wine corks into an ecologically friendly replacement for fossil fuel-derived foams. Sustainably harvested from trees, cork is a carbon-negative material that can be repurposed into new consumer items like footwear cushioning to help replace petroleum- based foams and plastics. As an important climate benefit, cork oak trees continue absorbing CO2 after their bark is removed.

Cork Recycling Pilot