You need to be more than a celebrity with a pretty face and nice figure to get a serious message across. The government sponsored national Recycle Now Week, with Denise Van Outen as its leading lady, has been strongly criticised for failing to deliver a message that supports sustainable recycling.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme has been accused of wasting a real opportunity by not communicating the need for householders to keep their recycled materials clean. One campaign group, PaperChain, has withdrawn its support. At the same time, mountains of recyclables are reportedly dumped at landfill because they were contaminated, supporting these concerns.

And I wonder if Denise Van Outen has been a real asset for the recycling campaign; she is modelling this very eye-catching frock made from recycled cans, bottle tops, cardboard and plastic bags. For the skirt section, 42 pairs of Levi 501s were used (presumable, discarded and unfit for wearing).

This is what Van Outen said about the promotion:

“I’ve been a keen recycler for several years, and it’s great to see that it’s no longer a minority activity. In fact, with everyone from George Clooney and Cameron Diaz to Lily Cole championing environmental issues, going green has never been more fashionable.”

Would that statement encourage you to actively recycle? What have you learnt from it? “Going green” is not just about being “fashionable”, it’s about understanding why the actions are necessary and what you can do to make a difference.

I have worked with local authority recycling officers and they are very committed and dedicated to their work. They need to deliver clear, strong, sustainable messages for householders which educates and engages. As Van Outen must be aware, fashion trends regularly change, but recycling – and other green issues – must help persuade people’s attitudes and actions for the foreseeable future.

Shanks, a leading waste management company, said that WRAP’s Christmas campaign had lacked a well-considered strategy:

“The sad thing is that we went through this last Christmas, when WRAP promoted recycling for the sake of recycling without being specific on quality. The result of which was thousands of tonnes of Christmas paper, contaminated plastics and various other things that could not be recycled.”

I firmly believe campaigners should never under-estimate the intelligence of the British public, and I fear Denise’s statement does. I am naturally very delighted if Van Outen has  been recycling for several years, if that is the case, she must have started before it became “fashionable”, which is very commendable. What is your view of celebrity endorsement?