Changing Russian Recycling Culture - Mission Impossible?

VkusVill

3. Good Health and Well-Being 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

VkusVill has recently launched a two-fold recycling innovation campaign. The first innovation is a unique vending machine called “Pandomat” installed in their shops. The second innovation is a mobile waste collector which is placed in close proximity to the shops, to help people separate their waste. Both innovations stimulate people to recycle their trash and contribute towards a more sustainable lifestyle and environment.

Authors

Laura Mossay

Laura Mossay

Paula Penner

Paula Penner

Anna Belousova

Anna Belousova

Nina Chukina

Nina Chukina

Ekaterina Zotova

Ekaterina Zotova

Ekaterina Myagkikh

Ekaterina Myagkikh

Alexey Ustinov

Alexey Ustinov

School

National Research University Higher School of Economics

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Professor

Ekaterina Ivanova

Ekaterina Ivanova

Innovation

VkusVill strives to facilitate the recycling culture among the Russian citizens. Recycling in Russia is not a priority and a vast majority of people does not want to make big efforts to participate in the recycling process. That is why VkusVill tries to motivate their customers to start with this recycling trend by introducing two solutions.

The first solution is the “Pandomat”, a vending machine that accepts plastic bottles, only the PET ones, and aluminium cans. These vending machines are placed in the stores and people can throw all their bottles and cans in the Pandomat regardless of where they bought them. The vending machine then scans the barcode of the bottles to count the number of bottles thrown in the machine and verifies if the bottles are PET ones. Afterwards the Pandomat shows the value of the recycling. This stimulates people to continue throwing their trash in the Pandomat and to try to increase their value each time. VkusVill uses an on-demand strategy for the Pandomat machines, they install the machines where their customers want them to be.

The second solution VkusVill introduced is collection of waste by means of a mobile waste collector accessible within walking distance from their shops. Those collectors help people to separate their waste in such a way that it could be recycled afterwards. The advantage of this solution is that people can throw all their waste in the separate bins of the collector compared to the Pandomat where people can only throw plastic bottles and aluminium cans away. This waste collector is becoming more and more popular and people are starting to understand the necessity to do something with their waste instead of just throwing it away without generating any value for the society.

Changing Russian Recycling Culture - Mission Impossible?

Inspiration

Tatiana Yanisheva stated that, “As a retailer who runs a huge amount of products every day that are often packed in some kind of plastic, we need to look for solutions on how to reduce this amount of waste and if this waste can be reprocessed into something valuable”. As a brand that stands for a more sustainable lifestyle, VkusVill felt the urge to do something about this waste and make people aware that waste can still be valuable.

In the past VkusVill has organised a competition to use a reusable bag for one month withoug buying any plastic bags. The customers who succeeded were awarded. VkusVill refunded them the total amount of plastic bags they would have bought instead of using a reusable bag. Tatiana Yanisheva also participated in this competition but did not manage to only use a reusable bag. She feels ashamed by it and understood that it was time to start making recycling trendier.

VkusVill analysed how much plastic would go to the landfill each month resulting from their operations. They came back with astonishing results. The amount of waste is equivalent to more than 17 cars. They communicated this information to their customers to make them aware of what will happen in the future if nobody takes action to reduce waste generation. But even with all this information displayed in the shops people still kept buying a lot of plastic bags because it is “easier”. That is what inspired VkusVill to think about some other initiatives that are easier to stimulate their customers to recycle their waste without asking too much effort from them.

Overall impact

The impact of the two innovations from VkusVill was quite different. First of all, the Pandomat had more success thanks to the media who wrote about this unique vending machine and promoted it a lot. Customers like this hip vending machine and are asking for one of them in each store of VkusVill. People like the concept of bringing their empty plastic bottles with them when going grocery shopping and do not think it takes them a lot of effort. They like the fact that the machine shows you how much their waste is worth and are excited to increase this value next time they will come to the store. The impact affects purely the sustainable lifestyle VkusVill wants to achieve because there is no correlation between putting a Pandomat and sales growth. Thus, the impact lays exclusively on recycling waste and establishing a positive impact for the community.

As for the other innovation, the waste collector, people were less enthusiastic about it than the Pandomat. Not everybody is motivated to spend time on separating their trash. Compared to the Pandomat people also do not know how much value they create by separating their trash because the waste collector does not show it to them. But the waste collector certainly made a positive impact and people are using it, only not as much as VkusVill exptected. To make an overall impact for the whole society more citizens will need to contribute to this collecting system.

Tatiana Yanisheva said that, “I once saw a young boy with his even younger brother coming to the store with several bottles to feed the Pandomat. Our customers use the following terminology, “I go, thus I feed”. Customers have a very personal attitude and involvement, others need more motivation and ask for some discount coupon or money.” This statement shows how even small steps to a more sustainable lifestyle can have an impact on the behaviour of people. Both innovations are stimulating people in the right direction, but they need more time and more awareness to make a big impact for the whole country.

Business benefit

The Pandomat was launched withoug an objective to increase the sales growth. As a result of interaction with Pandomat customers are becoming more loyal to VkusVill because they know VkusVill wants to do something about waste. Tatiana Yanisheva stated that, “They are pleased to see that the store where they go every day does something good for the environment”. To stimulate the use of the Pandomat even more VkusVill plans to give discounts for the users related to the value of the waste people throw inside the vending machine. Thanks to this social marketing tool VkusVill accomplishes to change the mindset and behaviour of their customers and contribute to a more sustainable society.

The waste collector is more efficient for VkusVill because the rent for such a collector is less expensive than a Pandomat vending machine. Although the impact of the waste collector is lower than the impact of the vending machine, VkusVill is able to put more of these collectors in the surrounding neighbourhoods of the shop and in that way make it easier for people to recycle because the collector is close by.

Both innovations improve customer relationships, who VkusVill considers as their most important stakeholders. Tatiana Yanisheva told that after implementing those two innovations she received a lot of emails from customers asking when VkusVill would install one of the innovations in their neighbourhood. She also told that she received a lot of feedback on the innovations. Customers even suggested new ways on how to increase awareness and become more sustainable. The customers are delighted to see VkusVill listens to them and tries the work with the comments they gave. Thus, the customer relationships benefited in a considerable way thanks to these innovations.

Social and environmental benefit

The main goal of the two innovations is to increase the awareness on how much waste we produce and how we can process this waste into something valuable. The scale of recycling in Russia is nothing in comparison to Europe, for example. People in Russia do not separate their trash and just throw everything away in one big bag.

Such innovations stimulate people to separate their trash and recycle for the greater good. The more people start recycling the more people will follow because that is how humans work. That is why VkusVill wants to show that even by recycling two or three plastic bottles every week you can already make a small impact. Recycling should also help saving money, because if people throw their plastic bottles in the Pandomat they do not need to throw it in a plastic bag, for which they paid, at home. Even if it still is a small gain it can make a difference. The waste collectors benefit society in a sense that a neighbourhood looks more attractive if there is no trash laying everywhere. Or even those dirty containers with a huge smell, it would be way better if in the future everybody makes use of the waste collectors such that they could replace the stinky containers.

Customers also told VkusVill they felt satisfied after using the Pandomat, for example. They are happy to contribute to a sustainable world. The innovations of VkusVill allows people to consume in a responsible way without putting a lot of effort in it. If they go to VkusVill several times a week it does not cost them a lot to bring their used plastic bottles with them and throw them in the Pandomat. VkusVill has accomplished to show society that doing something good and valuable is not and should not be that complicated and time-consuming. Thanks to their actions they make a great contribution to foster the culture of sustainable consumption by making recycling popular.

Interview

Tatiana Yanisheva, Brand Manager

Tatiana Yanisheva, Brand Manager

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VkusVill

VkusVill

Moscow, RU

Business Website: https://vkusvill.ru/

Year Founded: 2009

Number of Employees: 5001 to 10000

VkusVill is a rapid growing food retailer in Russia selling fresh organic products to their customers. The VkusVill corner shops are small convenience stores, with a total of 600 shops spread throughout Russia. The brand only sells private label goods and 95% of their goods are produced in Russia.