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3.5 million cans collected, 2.5 million people reached and 20,000 school-age children educated - with these note-worthy statistics, the Serbian-based recan fund proudly celebrates its 10-year-anniversary. Founded in 2005 by beverage can producer Ball Packaging Europe, the organization is a driving force behind beverage can recycling within the country by using a pioneering approach toward public education and awareness.
The recan fund’s unique programs and campaigns are focused on the importance of recycling and its positive impact to the overall environment. They include a large variety of consumer-related projects, targeted to multiple age groups and resulting in significant success. During the last 10 years, more than 3.5 million beverage cans have been collected, equaling the amount of metal needed to produce more than 7,000 bicycles.
For many recan activities, young people are the main target audience, with the goal of raising awareness around the environmental benefits of recycling from an early age. A great example of how this works is the “Recycling Theatre” campaign, for which recan was awarded the ‘Best Nonprofit Campaign’ in 2014 by the Belgrade-based City Magazine. In lieu of buying a ticket, children can bring five empty beverage cans for entrance. Children who arrive early and bring 10 additional cans receive books and meet the initiative’s mascot “Li-menom,” who shows them videos about recycling and how to crush their cans in a recycling box.
Popular Serbian music festivals like the Belgrade Beer Fest or Exit Festival have also proven very successful for recan. By providing recycling boxes and inviting visitors to participate in humorous competitive games around can recycling, the organization increases overall awareness and educates attendees in a fun and casual way.
The ‘Can by Can’ recycling program also continues to grow. “We started in 2006 with 20 schools. Now it is operational in more than 450,” explains Jelena Kis, who has managed the organization since its beginning. The program provides information to schools about the valuable resource that metal is, prepares teaching materials about can recycling and arranges educational workshops and competitions. “For us, it’s crucial that the kids understand from an early age how recycling can make a big difference for the future of our environment and that you can start to contribute to this with just a single beverage can.” The program has also been established in 58 offices, 25 restaurants, 47 cafés and 18 fitness clubs by providing free recycling boxes and educational leaflets.
Over the years, recan has become a reliable partner for the government as well as the beverage/packaging industry. The organization monitors recycling activities in Serbia to point out potential opportunities for improvement. The foundation is also part of the European “Every Can Counts” initiative and provides expertise, shares best practices and informational material with other recycling networks. In 2013, recan even spread its engagement to neighboring country, Montenegro.