Ten tips for successful recycling behaviour change campaigns

by | Mar 2, 2020 | Blog

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If you’re responsible for making sure residents in your municipality or staff in your company recycle their waste, read on:

  1. Behaviour change is a process
    Change doesn’t happen overnight. People take on new routines at their own pace. Keep repeating the messages continuously over time, so people come on board when they’re ready. The overall aim is to make the right behaviour the social norm.
  2. Communicate the system and its benefits
    Let people know that there is a waste and recycling system in operation that keeps their living and working areas clean and healthy. Also that it’s their responsibility as adults and citizens to participate wisely in it.
  3. Measure progress and give ongoing feedback.
    Put in place accurate systems to measure how much waste is being recycled or otherwise diverted from landfill. Tell people how progress is happening over time, even if it is slow.
    Develop a positive narrative. More people are motivated to join in if they know the programme is working.
  4. Positive messages work better than negatives.
    Research has proven that people respond better to messages that are emotionally positive.
    Messaging that makes people feel guilty or threatening puts up their mental shutters and does not encourage the right action.
  5. Make participation easy and convenient
    Design the waste collection system infrastructure – bins and placement etc – to be as convenient as possible. If you want most people to participate in recycling, don’t expect them to separate their waste into too many different bins or go too far to get to one.
  6. Different strokes for different folks.
    People are different and like to learn in different ways. Some will recycle because they see it as good for the environment, others because it creates jobs. Still others will want to know what’s in it for them. Frame messaging in different ways to reach the widest range.
  7. Use all available media
    The same messaging coming from different media reinforces the salience or importance of the overall campaign for people. Community newspapers, local radio, videos, account inserts, pole posters, flyers, school activities, edu-theatre, fridge magnets, intranets and social media – all these and lots more can be used to convey messaging.
  8. Messages are stronger coming from respected figures
    Feature respected councillors, community VIPS or leaders in media messages supporting or endorsing your campaign. That way more people will take note, and action.
  9. Apply social pressure and FOMO
    People like to follow the herd. So tell them that others are coming on board. Soon they’ll not want to miss out – and will join in.
  10. Make strong arguments to secure optimal budgets
    The benefits of campaigns promoting responsible waste management and diversion are many: cleaner, healthier living and work spaces, less litter and pollution, natural resource conservation, longer landfill life, job creation, greater pride and social cohesion, more productive, happier people. All these add up to strong arguments for securing budgets that can be used for greatest impact.

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