In the last home game of the normal AFL season, the West Coast Eagles ran their ‘Rethink Your Waste’ campaign. The campaign aimed to keep the stadium cleaner after games and increase public awareness of recycling, encouraging people to not only recycle better in the stadium but to also do more in their daily lives. Large amounts of waste had been left in the seats at the stadium after the West Coast Derby against the Fremantle Dockers and it there was a lot of rubbish in the wrong bins, meaning that there was a lot of recyclables being thrown into the general waste or the recycled bins becoming contaminated.

Fortunately for me, in just the first week into my internship, Adam Johnson from the Western Australia branch of MRA Consultancy was asked to help out with the Eagles’ campaign as a waste expert to talk to the players about the importance of recycling and where that recycling ends up.

Background to Recycling in Australia

As a country, Australia recycles 60% of the waste it produces. However, in WA that figure is a lot lower, barely scraping 50%. Up until the start of 2018, huge amounts of recyclable material was shipped from Australia to China. However, China has now stopped taking Australian recyclables due to issues of contamination, meaning that plastics are having to be stored in warehouses until the infrastructure to recycle is developed or other countries that already have that infrastructure in place offer to take Australian recyclable waste.

Plastic stored in warehouses around Australia, ready to be recycled

The key message is to cut down on the amount of plastic you consume. Australian supermarkets have taken an important step with the single-use plastic bag ban but there is still so much more that can be done. Reusable water bottles and coffee cups are another esay way to reduce plastic, and can even save you money with coffee shops offering discounts to those who bring their own! If there’s no way of avoiding it, then make sure you deal with it appropriately.

Getting High-Profile Players Involved

One thing that always seems missing from community engagement projects like this is a big name that fans can get behind. Even back in the UK, there have been a number of occasions where younger, less well-known players have been the face of a community campaign- it doesnt quite have the same impact as a big name.

Luke Shuey and Liam Duggan are two big names within the West Coast Eagles squad and popular among the fans- perfect to encourage the thousands of fans visiting the Optus Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Both had their reasons for being interested in the campaign including their links to nature and the devastating impact that plastics are having in the natural environment.

From the moment the two players arrived at Tamala Park Landfill site in the northern suburbs they were keen to engage and discuss the issues of waste and how differences could be made at the stadium, and in their own and others lives. With the help of Adam from MRA Consultancy, the message on dealing with waste and improving recycling in WA was captured and the promotional film could be produced.

Tamala Park Landfill in Perth’s northern suburbs


Making the Campaign a Success!

In the build up to the last home game of the season the video was shown on ‘Today Tonight’ on Channel 7, uploaded to the West Coast Eagles website and shared across social media. In the stadium, a small clip of the campaign featuring Shuey and Duggan was shown on a couple of occasions on the two big screens at either end of the stadium during Sunday’s game against Melbourne. The finished product is linked below:

Whilst there isn’t any data to say how successful the campaign has been, what was observed in the stadium after the final siren was a huge change after the previous home game. Many rows were completely free of waste and recycling bins were seen to be overflowing with recycled waste. The main goal of the campaign was to ensure that the stadium was left in a much cleaner state than it had been in the previous game, as well as encourage fans to better recycle their matchday waste, so it definitely seems as if it was a success!

Despite their late loss against Melbourne, the Eagles can prepare for the post-season and the challenge to reach the Grand Final at the end of September. With their position in the league meaning there could be another couple of home games, it will be interesting to see whether fans will continue with this strong start to the ‘Rethink your Waste’ campaign…

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