Make Way for Office Recycling Success- Using The Magic of Simplicity & Power of Influence
Really, what does it take to throw out right stuff in the right bins?
While I stumbled on this thought a couple of times in the past while working on recycling projects, it got further validated when it emerged as a common theme from a lot of sustainability conferences and talks that I attended earlier this year. It seems like most of us are already or at least working towards implementing the infrastructure for enterprise wide recycling & composting, yet getting employees to go that extra mile and recycle continues to be a constant challenge.
Since then I have tried to keep a keen eye on recycling setups during work and leisure travel and garner insights on this; my conclusion- it's really not rocket science yet sometimes we overlook the obvious.
So here is a quick list of what I have learnt along the way along with some possible ideas to help make recycling easy and intuitive and thereby successful.
1. Create some buzz
- To begin with make sure you launch your composting/recycling initiatives with a bang. Send out a launch email, if you can organize a launch event, even better. Create the right amount of awareness along with a punch of fun; fun always works -who wouldn't want to be part of some fun during a mundane work week?
2. Keep the recycling setup and signage simple
- It should take less than 5 seconds for anybody to determine which bin to throw away their plastic bottle. If you expect people to have prior knowledge or assess their plastic bottle, determine if it's a type1 PET or type 3 PVC and then do the honors, you are in trouble! It's got to be a simple decision of plastic/glass/paper/cans etc. If you find a single stream recycling vendor, even better- you have hit the jackpot! The easier the collection process, the better the chance of success.
3. Make it intuitive
- Use transparent bins without liners for collecting recyclables- paper, bottles & cans etc. People would hopefully think twice before dumping wet/soiled trash publicly in a transparent bin that is filled with bottles or paper.
- Location is key. Often times, people want to recycle, but don't have access to the bins at the right time and place. Invest in recycling bins in all the intuitive spots- cafeterias, break rooms, conference rooms, and printer/copier stations. Also do away with individual cubicle trash bins so you don't allow for the reflex action of dumping everything in the easy access container.
4. Educate & incentivize your facilities staff
- They are critical to your success! Invest the time to educate the facilities staff on when /what/how and incentivize them to achieve better recycling rates. The last thing you want is overflowing recycling bins or foul smell emanating from compost that has been lying around for days.
5. Leverage principles of behavior change
- In my opinion, finally it comes down to influencing change the right way. I was referred to Robert Cialdini's Influence: Science and Practice by a colleague while working on a campus recycling program in my past life that has always come handy when it comes to influencing/managing change; so here are a couple of the more relevant principles-
- Commitment and Consistency - "If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image". So try launching a recycling pledge and get folks to commit to doing it!
- Social Proof - "People will do things that they see other people are doing". Organize building/floor recycling competitions and publish results so people can see how their counterparts are taking the lead.
What do you think? Would love to know your thoughts, ideas or first-hand experiences in making recycling initiatives work.