Using a beloved TV game to encourage recycling

Who: Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation, with Venturepark for strategy and creative.

What: “The Unreturned,” a new public awareness campaign using gamification in an attempt to increase the province’s return rate for recyclables.

When & Where: The campaign kicked off on Wednesday with an installation/game in downtown Calgary. It is being supported by an online augmented reality game at, supported by out-of-home and PR.

Why: Albertans returned more than 2.1 billion non-refillable beverage containers last year, helping the province achieve one of Canada’s highest return rates at 84%.

Lori Koebel, director, sustainability and communications with ABCRC, said that ABCRC’s goal is to increase that rate to 90%, but it requires greater consumer engagement to help it achieve its goal.

“Recycling can get really boring,” said Koebel. “So we thought ‘What can we do to really engage with people to get them to understand that taking their containers to a [recycling] depot is a good thing?’ Making it a game makes it fun for people.”

The specific focus with this campaign is on those containers with lower return rates, such as tetra packs (which had a return rate of just 70.4% last year) and drink pouches (42.6%).

“Albertans seem to know they can take back their plastic bottles and aluminum cans, but what we don’t see is some of the more obscure containers being returned,” said Koebel. “We’re trying to educate Albertans that those containers are in the system too.”

How: The campaign’s centrepiece is an installation in downtown Calgary called Depot Adventure Time patterned after the beloved The Price is Right game Plinko. Timed to coincide with the Calgary Stampede, the installation invites people to send a representation of a recyclable bottle to the “depot” for a chance to win prizes including tickets on the famed Rocky Mountaineer.

The installation is being supported by an online experience housed at that invites people to use their camera phone to learn more about the province-wide campaign and the various types of containers that ABCRC is encouraging people to return as part of the effort.

And we quote: “We know that 16% of deposit bearing beverage containers don’t make it back to the depot, where they belong. They get forgotten in garages, left in arena bleachers, or left behind after picnics. We need the public’s help to get to 100%, to keep Alberta green and among the best recycling provinces in the country.” — Lori Koebel, director, sustainability and communications with ABCRC

Chris Powell