PR Case Study: Red Consultancy - The Rubbish Café

PR Case Study: Red Consultancy – The Rubbish Café

Emily Morgan, managing director – consumer at Red Consultancy, discusses how the agency helped Ecover to launch the Rubbish Café.

Campaign: The Rubbish Café
Client: Ecover
PR team: Red Consultancy


In 2016, less than half of all plastic bottles were collected for recycling and only 7% of those were turned into new bottles. The resulting impact is approximately 12.7 million tonnes ending up in oceans every year.

As a manufacturer, Ecover is tackling the issue with new 100% recycled and 100% recyclable washing up bottles, and this campaign is aimed to motivate the nation to join them in the war on plastic pollution.

‘Flashing the plastic’ took on a totally new meaning at this world first café experience where punters could only enter if they paid with recyclable plastic rubbish.

By cleverly showcasing the value of putting plastic back into the recycling system, the Rubbish Café generated far-reaching social engagement on the subject, hundreds of thousands of organic video views and blanket editorial coverage.


  • Help make the world a better place by encouraging the nation to join the debate on plastic pollution
  • Drive widespread editorial coverage of Ecover’s new recycled/recyclable bottles to showcase its leadership in sustainability
  • Land key retailer support

We agreed SMART KPIs with the client, including coverage quantity and quality, attendees, social engagement and video views.


Ecover didn’t join the current conversation on plastic pollution as an afterthought; the brand’s existence is founded on the ambition to minimise impact on the environment. However, it had struggled to generate mass impact and in recent years comms lost its way with more generic cleaning messaging.

Ecover’s new 2018 brand positioning “Let’s Live Clean” was designed to encourage consumers to join a movement that isn’t just about cleaning homes, but about cleaning the world. To shape our PR strategy, firstly we gauged public understanding around plastics and recycling via new research conducted in partnership with Friends of the Earth.

Our target was the mainstream ‘conscious consumer’: early adopters of trends with a desire to share the positive choices they make and who feel they’re part of a movement. So we set out to create a unique educational experience which would give them social bragging rights and which they would literally be queuing up to engage with.

The answer: The Rubbish Café. A pop-up with a zero waste menu. Serving up inspiration and ideas for simple swaps we can all make to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic. All paid for with rubbish.


We created a one-of-a kind experience that was:

  • Authentic to the product i.e. where washing-up takes place and linked to bottles being made from ‘rubbish’
  • Credible within the eco world and helpful in driving positive behavioural change
  • Collaborative – by working with other like-minded organisations (fellow B-corps)
  • Integrated – without big brand budgets the café needed to work across multiple channels

Everything was designed with sustainability and shareability in mind. We enlisted eco-chef Tom Hunt to create zero waste veggie and vegan bowls whilst upcycling designer Max McMurdo ensured the Rubbish Café backdrop was Instagram-worthy from every angle.

Recycling bins at the entrance showcased the value of putting plastics back into the recycling system – one labelled the ‘reincarnation station’ and the other ‘doomed for landfill’.

Ecover’s vision for the future was also displayed – the ability to re-fill bottles wherever possible. Attendees were encouraged to pledge to do their bit, as well as spread the word with #LetsLiveClean as a call to action.

A carefully coordinated amplification strategy ensured maximum impact beyond those who walked through the door including:

Research: News release and broadcast outreach on Earth Day with Ecover’s innovation lead in the hot seat alongside Friends of the Earth.

Listings: Targeting on/offline and social feeds to create buzz in the run-up. A strategy so successful we had queues round the corner.

Lifestyle and showbiz: Eco-conscious celebrities attended launch night including Lucy Watson, Camilla Thurlow, Julia Bradbury and Professor Green for widespread national pick up.

Social and digital:

  • Digital assets (film/photography) created and shared live from the café as well as engaging with attendee social content
  • Selected high-profile digital influencers were engaged to motivate their communities e.g. Madeleine Shaw, Zanna Van Dijk
  • Rubbish Café microsite acted as a hub for all digital content

Product placement: Maximised product on page opportunities across lifestyle consumer press

Stakeholders and environmental press:

  • Hosted a stakeholder roundtable event including Greenpeace, Wrap and Waitrose which invited opinion on Ecover’s future sustainability plans
  • Bespoke outreach and angles for environmental and trade media


This was the world’s first café where you ‘paid’ with rubbish. It was a unique and memorable way to showcase the value of putting plastics back into the recycling system whilst landing a brand message, and the campaign exceeded all of its KPIs:

Help make the world a better place by encouraging the nation to join the conversation on plastic pollution:

  • 87,000+ social engagements (positive likes, shares, comments) on plastic pollution
  • Almost 1,000 visitors to the café experienced plastic education face-to-face and 240 pledged to reduce their plastic usage
  • #LetsLiveClean used over 300 times
  • 11,400 visits to microsite page containing education on plastics/recycling
  • 25 stakeholder attendees
  • 50 bags of plastic collected and recycled
  • 620,000+ organic video views (AJ+, Balance)
  • Doubled Ecover’s Instagram followers and 400% increase in Facebook page likes

Drive widespread editorial and social coverage landing Ecover’s new recycled/recyclable bottles to showcase their leadership in sustainability:

  • 130+ pieces of positive coverage reaching 66% of ‘Conscious Consumers’ in the UK three times,including nationals (Daily Mail, MailOnline, BBC News, Daily Express, Metro and The Sun), broadcast features across 27 stations (including Sky News Sunrise, BBC News and the Today Programme) and product placement in high-circulation magazines (Women & Home, Fabulous and Ideal Home)
  • 95% of coverage included two key messages (sustainability and new bottle)
  • 54% of coverage included an image
  • Over 24 million social impressions

Land retailer support:

Crucially it also led to commercial success, with valuable conversations and progress being made with grocery retailers off the back of the café (while it is too early to assess full sales impact although initial data is promising).

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