The R Factor – Cumbria County Council


Best Green Public Sector Campaign


Cumbria County Council

Background & objectives

Resource Cumbria is the waste partnership comprising of Cumbria County Council and the county’s 6 other local authorities. Collectively, the partnership has the overall strategic aim of recycling or composting 50% of the county’s waste by 2011. They are currently recycling 40%.


Public engagement is a key part of their strategy. Without motivating people to recycle and nurturing further waste prevention techniques, their goal would be impossible to achieve.


As well as targeting the Cumbrian householder with this message, the partnership has a key strategic aim of educating children in the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle).  Indeed Cumbria County Council employs a team of 4 waste education officers. Inspired by TV’s hit show “X Factor”, the Resource Cumbria waste partnership launched the R Factor – a fantastic new Cumbrian talent quest open to every primary school in county asking them to produce a song for Cumbria aimed at spreading the message of the 3Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle.


The overall aim of the R Factor was to create a professional, contemporary and successful campaign utilising the format made popular of late by shows such as ‘X Factor’ and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ to engage not only school children, but the wider Cumbrian audience in the issues of waste prevention and recycling.



The R Factor generated a huge amount of 3Rs awareness throughout the county thanks to a good mix of above and below the line communications activity.


Throughout the project they utilised press advertising and radio advertising as well as quite fantastic print media and radio PR (with the AVE of approximately £10,000), to inform and generate word of mouth. Online and SMS texting were also utilised.


They empowered the participating to self promote their entry within their local community and further encourage ‘pester power’ through the children directly and indirectly involved in the competition.


The R Factor used little in the way of individually printed materials and so had an extremely small carbon footprint.


The key communications channels for the R factor were email, radio and print media. There was also a large amount of emphasis placed on word of mouth and pester power.


The competition element was completely virtual and ran online and via SMS texting.


Printed materials were kept to an absolute minimum and 100% recycled stock was used for all print.



The R Factor project was aimed at each and every householder within the county. The first phase of the project involved the county’s primary school children producing a 3Rs song through a workshop provided as part of the project. Over the 137 schools involved, over 14,000 pupils were involved in the project.  These songs were then aired on local radio where the wider Cumbrian public were invited to vote for their winner either online or through SMS texting. An unprecedented 5394 votes were polled during finals week.
The final winning songs were aired regularly to Cumbria’s 230,000 households.



Aided by consistent service improvements and successful waste prevention communications campaigns, Cumbria is a county with improving recycling figures. Between April and December, direct like for like comparisons between 2007 and 2008 figures highlight a reduction in total household waste being sent to landfill from 124,019 tonnes to 114,310 tonnes. The amount of waste generated per head in the county has reduced from 412kg to 409kg per annum. The percentage of waste recycled has increased 39.43% to 43.79% (lower recycling months still to come hence current overall estimate of 41%).


The R Factor project is one of a series of activities which has helped the county achieve these improvements. This project particularly has generated a huge amount of awareness in the practices, and indeed purpose, of the 3Rs. The combination of above and below the line communications techniques through pester power to advertising and word of mouth to well managed PR has created a buzz around the project which has been felt county wide.



Radio compliance consultancy, design and admin  £5500,

Commercial production     £7500,

9 months radio airtime and final campaign airtime  £41,148,

9 months press advertising (mainly beginning and end) £23,145,

PR and press management £3000,

Musiclinks tutor time, admin, online track management £20,030,

Final song professional recording and studio time  £9450,

The R Factor Live (inc. venue, lunch, weapons of sound, materials, professional photography and filming.) £10,596.

Total  £120,369 (equivalent to 52p per household)